The case has captured local and national media attention over the last several years: Kelly Thomas was a 37-year-old man with severe mental illness. He had been living on the streets of Fullerton when, one night in July of 2011, he was involved in an altercation with city police officers. Police were prompted to detain Thomas because was thought to be acting in a suspicious way at the Fullerton Transit Center. While trying to detain the unarmed man, the officers used physical force and Thomas was seriously injured. After being hospitalized for several days in a vegetative state, Thomas was taken off life support. Pictures of his injuries were heavily circulated and video showing the incident later surfaced. Public outrage regarding the incident may have contributed to the city’s acquiescence.
The City of Fullerton has accepted no liability but seems to have conceded: a lengthy civil trial may have been far more damaging than agreeing to the settlement. Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, will receive the settlement within 30 days. Kelly’s mother accepted a $1 million settlement several years ago. No officers were ever convicted for their roles in the incident.