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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

 
The war on the mentally ill escalates

by digby

So they found the police not guilty of a crime in the torture and beating death of Kelly Thomas. I haven't heard what the jury thought they were doing but the defense was based upon the idea that the officers were fighting for their lives.

Take a look at the victim after the beating he endured:


I wrote about the Thomas killing at the time it happened.
When animals attack

Killers in uniform: 
Via Carlos Miller at Photography is Not a Crime comes the news that the Orange County DA finally released security footage of the brutal beating death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, a homeless man from Fullerton, California. 
Two police officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, are now on trial for the killing of Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia. Cops used their fists and batons to beat Thomas. They Tasered him multiple times. Cause of death was apparently "mechanical suppression of the thorax." 
Besides eventually screaming for his father, a former police officer himself, Thomas also repeatedly yells that he can't breathe. 
Here's what went down: 
“Now you see my fists?” Fullerton police officer Manny Ramos asked Thomas while slipping on a pair of latex gloves. 
“Yeah, what about them?” Thomas responded. 
“They are getting ready to fuck you up,” said Ramos, a burly cop who appears to outweigh Thomas by 100 pounds. 
"Well, start punching," Thomas responds, never once displaying any physical aggression towards Ramos. 
Moments later, as Thomas is standing while Ramos is ordering him to get on his "fucking knees," Fullerton cop Joseph Wolfe, who is not charged in the case, walks up and starts beating his legs with a baton. 
Then Ramos gets into the act and Thomas takes off running, moving out of the frame of the camera. 
The camera, operated by a dispatcher at the station, then moves toward the beating, showing Ramos and Fullerton cop Jay Cicinelli on top of Thomas as Thomas repeatedly apologizes and telling them he is unable to breathe. 
The cops keep telling him to put his hands behind his back and lay on his stomach, but they are both laying on top of him, making it impossible to even breathe, much less move. 
As the video continues, one of the cops can be seen kneeing him. 
"Please, I can't breathe," Thomas pleads as the officers keep telling him to put his hands behind his "fucking back." 
The cops keep telling him to "relax" to which he responds, "I can't, dude." 
More cops eventually arrive and a little more than four minutes into the video, they start tasing him. 
And a little after five minutes into the video, as three cops are piled on top of him, beating him, tasing him, one cop looks up at another cop who just arrived on the scene and says, "help us."
At one point he yells out, "Dad, they are killing me." 
Even after seven minutes into the video, when six cops are on top of him and all Thomas is doing is crying for his father, they keep telling him to "relax." 
After they got him down, the police repeatedly say "he's on something." But he wasn't. He suffered from mental illness. At the end he's just saying "daddy...daddy ...daddy" and then he stops talking at all.  
This is heard distinctly on the tape:
"We ran out of options so I got the end of my Taser and I probably ... I just start smashing his face to hell," Cicinelli said, according to the transcript provided by prosecutors. "He was on something. Cause the three of us couldn't even control him."
You can see the video at the link, but it's so horrible I'm not sure about telling people to watch it.
The mentally ill die frequently at the hands of police. And yes, sometimes the police do kill them in self-defense. Often they just kill them. Certainly they taser them fairly constantly, which ends up being a form of electo-shock torture since these people are literally unable to comprehend and comply. 
Here's a perfect example of the more "benign" variety. We have a schizophrenic man outside a diner who is alleged to have been harassing customers. Police are called. (Note the sick reaction of the young male observer on the audio): 


Had this man had a heart condition he could have died. He was hit square in the chest. 
I realize these are tough situations for the police. Dealing with people who cannot comprehend your orders --- or the stakes in refusal --- makes it even tougher. But ask yourself why that officer couldn't have walked behind the man rather than demanding that he turn around and shooting him full of electricity in the chest when he didn't. The man's hands are up, he's presenting no threat. So often these things end up being a battle of wills rather than a means to an end. It's one thing if thing if the person is clearly threatening, but too many times it's police needing to demonstrate their authority. Needing to do that with people who are hearing lots of voices in their heads telling them all kinds of things already, is just pathetic. 
Mentally ill people often live horrible lives in the streets of our towns and cities. They face danger from the elements, criminals and each other. And they often end up in police custody for a variety of reasons. Tasers (and worse) are cruelly used against them. It's medieval.
It goes without saying that without cameras taping this incident there would not be a trial.

I confess that I did expect the police to be held responsible for that atrocity. I couldn't imagine how they could get away with it.  But it would seem that at least 12 citizens of this country have bought into the notion that the police are fighting a war on the streets of America.  And they must defeat the enemy by any means necessary.

Those police officers are free now.  How free do you feel?