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. Clarence Thompson

    They need to make an example out of these jerks for abusing there authority... They suppose to serve & protect not use that badge in vain... Sadd... Smh!!!!!

    May 16, 2012 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. sTEVE

    What has happened to Humanity, Compassion, honor in the people of today. As a father reading this story i was over come with so much saddness and heart ache for the Thomas family. That video will haunt me for the rest of my life i can not imagine the hell that, that father is going through knowing his son, his babys last words were "daddy help me daddy there killing me" i am sure that will play forever in his head as it will in mine. I want him to know i'm so sorry for his loss. its seems like everytime you turn on the tv or read the paper there is some type of police scandal it is time that police understand that they will not get away with the brutality that they will be held accountable for there actions a murder is a murder no matter who you are and they should recieve stiffer penalties for those who are given so much power more is expected.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Judge Dredd

    to see and hear this in our day and age is heart-breaking.. another murder in a disfunctional "police state" that America is turning into.. it is a pity.. Dredd says -GUILTY-

    May 18, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  4. David Witkin

    We have witnessed, over the past year and a half, police brutally suppressing peaceful protestors against income inequality and government-corporate collusion, pepper-spraying peaceful protestors who were just sitting down, not to mention all those folks whose only crime has been to be seen walking or driving while Black or Hispanic. Should this surprise us? NO. The only surprise is that no one has made the connection.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cyric

    Classic cop, above the law abusers

    June 8, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dude

    "Innocent until proven guilty" Cops needs to chant that at every roll call.

    November 7, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
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