It was just a simple police stop, I was walking back home from the
store, penny food under my arm, when I saw him. A police cruiser parked
crookedly on the side road, red and blue lights flashed wildly. Two
black uniformed police officers held a wallet and stood over a subject
sitting in the grass. He laid one arm across a raised knee his other
propping him up. The man in the grass appeared casual, more relaxed
about the situation than the police officers. Or maybe he was just
tired; maybe he was just another soldier of the road, another veteran of
our harsh times.
It brought back memories of an E-mail with a link to a video sent to
me. In it, a young man was stopped by police in Fullerton California;
he is lucid, conversational and was in no ways threatening or
potentially violent. I watched this first video lasting only eight or
nine minutes, but after watching it I went searching for a longer
version. I wanted to understand how this could happen, the complete
video was shocking and not for the faint of heart, a confrontation
leading to a young man being tazered half a dozen times and beaten to a
bloody pulp is over thirty minutes long.
As the video opens, a cop waves his baton assertively, like a
peacock preening or a wild bull rutting in the ground. It is a full
fifteen minutes after police begin their interrogation of this young man
before things start going terribly wrong. The young man is obviously
becoming tired of the police interrogation tactics. Questions asked with
a snarl full of condescension, asked with intent to aggravate trying to
get a rise out of the citizen.
"Two days in a row,"- Corporal Jay Cicinelli
As one Ramos interrogates, as Cicinelli calls out potential charges they could use to run this young man in on.
Ostensibly, police were investigating auto burglaries; it is unclear
whether these burglaries took place that night, that week or last
month. In any case, a quick inspection of this young man finds him not
in possession of any property you might expect to be found on someone
involved in auto burglaries.
"Hey, what is your name? Hey, what is your name? - Officer Manuel Ramos
"I think its Kelly or something,"- Corporal Jay Cicinelli
"Gonna take you to jail on suspicion of burglary"- Officer Manuel Ramos
There were no outstanding wants or warrants to hold this young man.
His name was Kelly Thomas, the reason he didn't give his name was
because the cops already knew his name. This wasn't a bust or an
investigation it was just a roust, let's go f*ck with the homeless guy.
So after fifteen minutes of abusive interrogation, after quarter hour of
being detained and threatened with arrest treated with contempt and
scorn. He is treated as untermunchin, because of his appearance and
because of his poverty.
"Put your feet out in front of you get your hands out from behind you.
Put your feet out in front of you get your hands out from behind you.