The Office of Independent Review has released a 5-1/2 page report detailing key points regarding issues surrounding the death of Kelly Thomas, and how the department might improve its policies and processes. The investigation led by Michael Gennaco concluded that "OIR Group has found no evidence of intent by the Police Department to deceive or falsify [information]", however no overt insight was given regarding the use of excessive force by six Fullerton cops.
The report confirmed that officers responded to a call that was made directly to the department's dispatch employees, rather than 911. The unnamed caller alleged that Kelly Thomas was attempting to open car doors in the parking lot next to the bus station. There has been no evidence whether these claims were true, but some corroboration has been received from the caller. During questions from council it was stated by Council Member Dick Jones how uncommon it was to have called dispatch as he is unaware of that number.
In addition to the claim of attempted break-ins, it was initially reported that Thomas was found with a backpack containing mail not belonging to him. Gennaco stated that the backpack contained opened mail to an attorney as well as a passport. Its owner declared during an interview that the backpack was left behind at Fullerton’s train station. That pack was later found by Kelly Thomas. “At worst, Mr. Thomas retrieved what appeared to be a lost or discarded backpack”, Gennaco said. He clarified by including that officers at the scene had no way of knowing that this was the case at the time.
The other half of the report discussed events following the incident regarding the dissemination of information to the media. Disputes have been made that the booking photo issued to the press was not of Kelly Thomas. Gennaco stated that the photo was in fact Kelly Thomas, yet the photo was from a 2009 arrest on an unrelated issue. Because Thomas was never formally booked, a photo was never available regarding the July 5th incident. "What you ended up having in this case... [is the inference that] the reason this booking photo was released was to portray Mr. Thomas in a negative light". OIR Group advised against this use of issuing booking photos, and recommended instead that media be asked to use photos from the family in cases where the accused are not formally booked.
A side issue, but an important issue, is sort of the intonation, although this wasn't stated, but the intonation or the inferrence that somehow these injuries to the officers were caused by Mr. Thomas. And it should be made clear that OIR group is not indicating that the injuries were suffered at the hands of Mr. Thomas. Rather the injuries where obtained during the force incident with Mr Thomas, and my have been suffered while the application of force by officers was being committed.Michael Gennaco
It was initially reported by certain media outlets shortly after the incident that FPD officers received broken bones during an altercation with Kelly Thomas. Later, Sargent Andrew Goodrich revealed to The Fullertonian that these officers bones had not been broken. Gennaco’s report stated that later x-rays showed that no officers had received fractures from the dispute, although one officer later received surgery on his shoulder. “It would have been advisable in this case to either delay the release of information about this issue until diagnoses were more definitive or to expressly make clear to the public that the information was extremely tentative and subject to further assessment by doctors”.
Michael Gennaco continued by saying that in events where inaccurate information is provided to the public, the city’s website should be able to disseminate clarifications quickly and broadly. Despite officer Joe Wolf’s shoulder surgery after the Kelly Thomas incident, Gennaco stated that, "It should be made clear that our group is not indicating that the injuries were suffered at the hands of Mr. Thomas. Rather the injuries were obtained during the force incident with Mr. Thomas, and may have been suffered while the application of force by officers was being committed."
OIR Group’s full investigation should be completed sometime next week as they are still conducting interviews with officers involved in the case.