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Why Remember Kelly Thomas Eight Years Later?

July 5, 2019 marks the eight-year anniversary of the brutal beating (and ultimate death) of a mentally ill homeless man named Kelly Thomas by the Fullerton Police Department. In this piece, local homeless advocate Leigh White ponders the question, “Why is it important to remember Kelly Thomas?”

People want to forget. It’s too emotional. Too shameful. Too long ago. The brutal beating death of schizophrenic homeless man Kelly Thomas in 2011 was one of the most vicious and deliberate murders to occur in Orange County — all caught on city cameras and Fullerton Police DAR devises. And yet the criminal case verdict was “not guilty.” And yet there’s no permanent Kelly Thomas memorial as promised by the city 8 years later.

“Kelly’s Corner” at the Fullerton Transportation Center.

Did you know Kelly Thomas was born right here in Fullerton at St. Jude’s? He’s no stranger. He’s our native son. An undeniable part of us. He’s our eternal catalyst and the reason I broke away from my own complacency to become an advocate for the homeless — the absolute best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

We must remember July 5, 2011 always. The moment we forget the injustice that has happened to our most vulnerable, is the most moment we as people have ceased to be human beings or Americans. Currently, former officers Cincinelli and Wolfe want their jobs back at FPD. Is this acceptable to any of you?

Image of Kelly as a young boy.

July 5 is an annual time to put ourselves in check. To see what else can be done to help those in need, and heads up, there are plenty of people still in need in Fullerton. This is also a time to remember a man named Kelly that could’ve been your son, your brother, your uncle, your friend. He could’ve been you screaming for your life as the world watched and did absolutely nothing.

Leigh recently decorated “Kelly’s Corner” at the Fullerton Transportation Center where Kelly was killed. Some friends will gather there this evening for a quiet vigil and time of remembrance.

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3 replies »

  1. If the homeless liason officer with the Fullerton Police Department were available on scene that night and the officers on scene had proper CIT training Kelly could still be with us today. Kelly represents everyone. What happened to him could have happened to anyone’s father, mother, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, and the vulnerable including people with autism, dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s etc….. I am thankful for and have huge respect for Ron standing up for his son and proving his innocence with the city and standing up for his son in court. No family should have to go through this. Yes we should remember Kelly 8 years later. He represents all of us still among the living in that city. He represents all of us. What happened to Kelly could have been any of us. I am glad people in the community posted photos of Kelly on the light pole as a reminder he was a person, an individual, someone’s son, brother, uncle, nephew and his life mattered and still does. His family still mourns his death and so do the rest of us. We mourn the brutal death of one of our own out in the public square and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. Kelly was unarmed and he called out for his father 32 times to help him. Kelly’s life mattered and it still matters. Remembering Kelly 8 years later matters. It does for me.

    • The officers who beat Kelly should never get their jobs back. They’ve disgraced the Fullerton police department and law enforcement everywhere. They weren’t enforcing the law at that time, they were actively murdering Kelly. There definitely should be a memorial object for Kelly in the place where he was beaten. Shame on those Fullerton police and shame on them for showing their faces in public and shame on everyone responsible for finding all of them not guilty. Backwards society this is…

  2. For those of us, whom have loved and fought for help for a wayward son, Kelly’s death brought nightmare to reality.
    Rest easy Kelly. WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU!

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