Overheard on CNN.com: Beaten man's cries for 'Daddy' leave some readers in tears
Ron Thomas, left, reacts when he finds out two police officers will be charged in the beating death of his son, Kelly Thomas.
May 10th, 2012
07:55 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Beaten man's cries for 'Daddy' leave some readers in tears

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Opinion writer Ruben Navarette explored the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with schizophrenia who was videotaped being beaten by police officers in Fullerton, California, last July. A judge ruled Wednesday that two of the officers involved will stand trial; Officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and Cpl. Jay Patrick Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony use of excessive force.

Navarette's father is a retired policeman, as is Thomas' father, Ron Thomas. Readers debated police protocol and treatment of mental illness. Some got emotional thinking about Kelly Thomas calling out for his father.

'Daddy, help! They're killing me!'

Several commenters said they shed tears.

jlaforce: "When I read this story, I burst into tears at my office desk. Thomas was a sick person who was in many ways reverting back to a child as illustrated by his (HEARTBREAKING) calls for his dad. Does anyone know how to contact the father/family to send condolences? -wife of a police officer who would never have participated or stood by and watched this happen."

One of the readers had words for the police.

Josh Lucky Blumenthal: "This article suggests holding cops to the same standards as everyone else. I think the police should be held to a higher standard."

There were some people who said they understand where the officers are coming from.

aginghippy2: "I watched the entire video on another site. In the first few minutes, putting myself in the cops' shoes, them not knowing he is mentally ill, I can see where they thought the victim was being belligerent and uncooperative. When they asked him to put his hands behind his back, many times, he kept saying, 'OK, give me a minute, dude!' However, as the encounter continued, when several 'trained professionals' were too weak, uncoordinated or otherwise incompetent to handcuff one scrawny man, I started to change my mind. When the kicking, hitting and tasing started, and Thomas was not following commands, it should have been obvious that he was not comprehending what he needed to do. Again, at least four cops were on top of him and were unable to bring the situation under control. I don't agree that this was murder. It was not a hate crime. It was a bunch of Barney Fifes who were unfit for duty. Just about everything they did was the wrong tactic. They should all be fired for incompetence, and those who did the violence should be charged with involuntary manslaughter. I absolutely do not believe that any of the cops intended to kill anyone that night."

This person, who claimed to be a former police officer, said there is no excuse.

Malakie: "Now THIS is a news story worth printing and reading. As an ex-cop myself, I totally agree with this decision. I, too, am one of those who cannot stand other cops who abuse the trust and the power. Makes me sick every time I read about something like this. I commented on the original story days ago and I said that murder charges were warranted the moment I read the comment about what the officer said and the other comment about the Taser. Once I read those I knew there could be NO other decision in this case and I am so glad the judge agreed. There are thousands of cops who are just like me and who do the job with honor, integrity and will protect the rights of everyone ... including those who are suspected of a crime. Until my injuries caused my retirement from my military and police careers, I was one of those who had no problem standing up to officers who were nothing more than thugs themselves. And there are many more just like me. Even so, there are always bad in any group. All we can do is pay attention and bring it to the attention of others when they do step out of line. The job is not easy and the things you see affect you in ways civilians cannot understand. But that is NO excuse for becoming a thug and criminal yourself, especially when you wear a badge and have the people's trust."

The issue of mental illness touched many readers.

ScotinUtah: "As a father of an autistic son, this is one of those scenarios that worries me a great deal. It is of constant concern to me, when thinking of his future. Our police are supposedly well-trained, but it seems that common sense is not incorporated into their training. If my son were to encounter a policeman for a small violation, I dread the outcome. Autistic people are not like us, and the perception is that they often appear sarcastic in their responses. I dread this scenario. These cops went from zero to killing an innocent man in a matter of minutes. ..."

bankrupt1: "I have a brother who is mentally ill and I worry about it, too. To the point that many times I don't report things that should be reported. I don't think they can/will be reasonable."

One commenter said they feel people are getting swept up into the coverage.

Frank Mondana: "A good dad would have done more to take care of his mentally ill son. He uses the same tired 'We did everything we could' excuse, which really means he did only so much until it got inconvenient and started taking up too much time. Mentally ill people need advocates. They need people who are thinking clearly to wade through the difficult mess that is the mental health system. I was one of those patients who became too much of a burden (actually embarrassment because my family didn't want anyone to know I was in a nut house) to my family. Luckily I was high-functioning when on medication so I eventually took care of myself. It took 10 years. Had my family been involved it would have taken one. I also feel contempt for the citizens who are on this poor guy's side now, after he's dead. I'll bet many of those same self-righteous hypocrites ignored or even told him to get away when he asked for money. Now that it's a 'cause,' they want justice. Yeah, right."

Was lesser force an option?

Charma2: "No matter what this man's crime was, he clearly was doing nothing to deserve being beaten to death. He wasn't just homeless, he was helpless. My God what is wrong with you people? Whether he had a mental illness or not, he didn't deserve to be beaten to DEATH. Pick him up, handcuff him and then deal with the issue."

Some said we should also think about Thomas' condition that night, and other information not yet known.

Yeti2424: "Did you even watch the video? I saw a man so out of control that it literally took six men to get him into handcuffs. Yes, he was mentally ill, but if no one knows that it's not going to be taken into account. He seemed totally coherent when he was being argumentative during questioning right before he's trying to run away. He may have been screaming that he was sorry and that he couldn't breathe, but that didn't stop him from not listening to the officers' repeated calls to calm down and put his hands behind his back as he continued punching and kicking. It's a really unfortunate situation and I don't envy the decisions that officers have to make on the fly when dealing with people who are less than cooperative. I'm interested to see what comes out during the trial, as I think there is a whole lot more to the story then we are being told."

As for the other officers on the scene, many readers were outraged.

PhillyEric: "I have incredible respect for how difficult the job of a cop is, and I would like to think that these guys are extreme outliers. However, it speaks volumes that four additional cops showed up at the scene, yet the original two felt completely comfortable in continuing to beat this helpless man to death. That tells me that these two felt that their actions would be condoned by the other cops. Until cops stop protecting each other and start taking a stand against the bad ones who do this sort of thing, the public will continue to be skeptical of cops. If there hadn't been a video, does anyone believe that any of these cops would have been punished?"

Can we trust authority? Should we? This reader was very skeptical.

Robyn: "But the police officers are unlikely to go to trial. If they do go to trial they are unlikely to be convicted. And even if they are convicted, they are unlikely to face any significant punishment, and the police officers know that. This was an extraordinary event in only one way: It was recorded. These police officers were so contemptuous of, and felt so invulnerable to, the laws of our society and human decency that they didn't even bother to make sure that their evil was hidden from view. So 1 out of 500 or 1 out of 5,000 bad acts by police officers was recorded. So what? We have been and are being trained to distrust the evidence of our own eyes and ears and instead listen to the voice of authority telling everything that was done was right and proper and necessary. We watch a man being brutally murdered by an out-of-control gang of thugs and are told that proper application of force was used. We listen to an apologist for murderers tell us the victim was at fault because he didn't lie still while his skull was being crushed by animals armed with cudgels. We learn to place less value on the lives of the people who don't look like us or don't sound like us or don't act like us. We see them as less human. But when we do this, we become less human."

What do you think about the case? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: California • Justice • Overheard on CNN.com • U.S.
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. hamsta

    Who's watching the watchmen?

    May 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr Dalloway

      No one, I think they're freelanced, all of them

      May 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      ALL THE YEARS THAT HE WAS HOMELESS ??? WHERE WAS HIS MOM AND DAD ??? DID MOM AND DAD KICKED HIM OUT ????/NO ONE IS INVESTIGATING THAT....IS IMPORTANT, BECAUSE IF THEY KICKED HIM OUT ON THE STREETS , SHOULD THEY GET THE MILLIONS FROM A LAWSUIT ??????

      May 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      COPS CAN KILL YOU EVEN IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A GUN AND MAKE UP ALL KINDS OF EXCUSES WHY THEY SHOT YOU.......OH HE LOOK LIKE HE WAS GOING FOR A GUN---IF THE KID HAVE A CELL PHONE, THEY COULD USE THAT AS AN EXCUSE AND SAY HIS CELL PHONE LOOK LIKE A GUN-–HE PUT HIS HANDS IN HIS POCKETS...WHO IS GOING TO DISPUTE THAT ??????

      May 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Portland tony

    When we capture wild animals, we do a more humane job.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. HIDE BEHIND

    When wild animals attack humans it is quite acceptable to resist, but in todays world we are to never resist symbols of authority even if they are attacking us as brutally as any animal would,
    You never question authority!

    May 10, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      LIKE ZIMMERMAN ?? SOME AR SAYING THAT HE SHOULD OF CONTINUE TAKING MORE BEATING FROM MARTN AND NOT USE HIS GUN..

      May 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    I agree with Robyn...and with hamsta.
    This is such a sad case all around.

    May 10, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. HIDE BEHIND

    Mr. Police Officer, Yes I am a " Civilian", and so too are you!

    While the reality of being governed under the Powers of MARTIL LAW is in effect, even under US Statutes ypu are still just part Of A CIVILIAN POLICE FORCE, and not a part of a military organization.

    The exception to that ROLE is only when a NATIONAL EMERGENCY IS ISSUED "PUBLICLY"", and even then you are still a civilian police officer under either a Homeland Security or a Military Commamd Structure

    A mindset that lets the men and women civil police members seperate themselves, and elevates them as being above the public at large, forgetting that they are public employees.

    Incidents like this are a part of our everyday existence, and that when an officer goes off on a criminal tangent, they like our military have Special status and do get away with murder, mayhem, and othet crimes on a regular basis

    May 11, 2012 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      COPS HAVE WAY TOO MUCH POWER TODAY.....IN THE OLD DAYS IF THEY STOP YOU FOR A TRAFFIC VIOLATION THEY COULD NOT LOOK INSIDE YOUR CAR, BUT TODAY THEY CAN....IF YOU SAY NO ? THEY TOW YOUR CAR TO THE POLICE STATION UNTIL THEY CAN GET A SEARCH WARRANT...PUTTING YOU THROUGH A LOT OF HARASSMENT AND $ 150-TO $ 250 IN TOW FEES. THAT IS WRONG.

      May 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      ANOTHER ABUSE OF THEIR AUTHORITY,,IF THEY STOP FOR WHAT EVER REASON AND THEY END UP TAKING YOUR CAR , THEY COULD ALLOW YOU TO CALL A MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY TO COME PICK UP THE CAR...BUT NO, THEY TOW YOUR CAR COSTING YOU OR YOUR FAMILY A $ 150-$ 250 DOLLARS IN TOWING FEES.. NO REASON FOR THAT....ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS HAVE HIM–HER CALL A MEMBER OF THE FAMILY TO PICK UP THE CAR.

      May 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Albus

      You just cannot trust the police anymore. Things are going to happen in a very short period of time. People are not going to take this treatment by police officers for much longer.

      May 13, 2012 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. despairagus

    I'd like to thank Frank Mondana for speaking up, and CNN.com for reprinting his comments. I too am a mentally ill person, and I am all too familiar with the family and societal abandonment described. The fact is, severe mental illness is a medical condition that nearly ensures mistreatment. It is up to us high-functioning folks to speak up for those who can't, because regular folks still feel justified in discriminating againt the mentally ill where they would be appalled if the same treatment was applied to any other minority group. Kelly Thomas may have been mentally ill, but he was not so far gone that he wasn't aware of his plight when he screamed out, "they're killing me!"

    We are human and we are keenly aware of abandonment, betrayal, we feel the negative judgement aimed directly at us when regular folks make jokes about someone being "schizo", we know that many people would prefer that we be institutionalized so that they don't have to look at us, and we feel pain just as well as anyone else when being pummeled with fists, tasers, and nightsticks.

    May 11, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. Str8Vision

    The city of Fullerton California sat on this for a year trying to buy/weasel their way out of addressing it. They weren't concerned about the mentally disabled man who was beat to death or the safety of their citizens who are/were policed by these thugs only the unwanted attention the victims father was causing. Why were charges not filed against the "obviously" guilty officers in a timely manner? Why are the other officers present at the scene not named or charged? Why did it take the victims father going public with the video a year after the fact in order for the legal system to do its job? Most of us already know the answer to these questions, our "justice system" is a joke and disproportionately applied to the rank and file. The Fullerton district attorney, police chief and mayor should be charged with obstructing justice. The names and photographs of "all" the officers involved should be posted nationally for all to see and know.

    May 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JOSE0311USMC

    ALL THE YEARS THAT GUY WAS HOMELESS, WHERE WERE HIS MOM AND DAD ?? MISSING.....NOW THEY ARE GOING TO GET RICH OFF THEIR SON'S MISS FORTUNE. NOT RIGHT...

    May 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JOSE0311USMC

    HUGE ABUSE OF POWER BY THE POLICE...POLICE SHOULD NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEARCH YOU CAR OVER A TRAFFIC VIOLATION..WHO THE HELL MAKE THOSE LAWS ?? THE FEW THAT VOTE, THE TOP 5O%

    May 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      @Jose,it comes under the same laws as homeland security,racial profiling ,just like that jackel has done in Arizona ,the lady governor remember her!!Just a bigger fence and electrify it while you're at it!!!

      May 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Christina

    Just think this could have been anyone. What do you do if you are ever in this situation?! Cops are out of control anymore. Either too long on the job, too young, full of hotheads and men with large egos. So many corrupt, so many feel they are above the law. When this situation involves yourself and cops decide you are not worth life, and the situtation becomes violent, what can we do to protect ourselves?!? My favorite thing is to hear cops yelling stop resisting as they are kicking someone and beating them while they are laying on the ground waiting to be cuffed. I feel something more needs to be done to maintain order in all police forces in the US. Too many videos like this have been surfacing lately. It should not happen.

    May 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cheri

    I don't know if anyone else finds this case keeping them up at night. But it certainly does me. My heart goes out to Kelly and his family. I'm so glad that my own son informed me of this case. The murders (all 6 of them as I recall) should be charged. Not a one of them protected and served Kelly that night and so each and every one of them should be barred from being a police officer in any capacity indefinitely. Ramos should be given the MAXIMUM that law allows. And after that I wish for him a cellmate, big. VERY big, who was incarcerated after being brutalized by a police officer (just by two bits). Peace, love and light to the family.

    May 11, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Realist

    Easy to cry over someone after they're dead. How many of you people would have invited him into your homes?

    May 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      @Realist,his father was getting him home for medical help,he ran out of meds.He did nothing wrong,just looking around dumpsters looking for junk and these cops are getting jail time,it was announced some time ago,the wait is over.Autopsy showed he drowned on his own blood,a result of the constant beating by flashlight and officers hands, feet,on his face,head and upper body that eventually killed him.Some are supposed to be getting murder one and some manslaughter,but all are getting jail time,that was told on tv...

      May 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • ♚Mmmmm♛

      No, but I would beat his face into a pulp and kill him either you fool.

      May 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. MD

    Too little info in this report to blame the parents, the mental problems may have resulted from some adult trauma such as war, or some other trauma.
    If it was a life long illness, you can't blame the parents because it's really both a medical and a legal problem: once a child turns 18 the parents have no more legal control over the person. No one can forcibly commit any child to a mental facility or force them to take medication without a court order once they're of legal age. Many mentally ill children aren't diagnosed correctly until after they're adults. If they're not correctly diagnosed and medicated before they're adults, parents can't do anything to help the child, be forewarned because correct diagnoses take a long time.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Keepalowprofile

    I keep returning to this story... I cry every time I read it.
    My heart goes out to Kelly's family.

    I am a retired animal control officer... In my 22 years on the job, I never once struck an animal that was resisting me.

    Those cops are MONSTERS.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. old cop

    I have pulled fellow officers and K-9 dogs who were out of control off suspects.
    There are those who simply do not belong behind a badge.
    Look back and examine the "militarization" of the police forces - boots, not shoes; black shirts, not white; military haircuts -- all in the name of effectiveness.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
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