At a preliminary trial hearing, a video of Fullerton, California police officers beating a homeless man to death was shown yesterday. The court audience reacted with shock and horror to the tape, which shows Officer Manuel Ramos giving orders to the schizophrenic Kelly Thomas, who complies for a few minutes before standing up and apparently resisting arrest. Four officers then proceed to beat Thomas to the ground, then taser him several times.
Thomas can be heard pleading with the officers to stop, calling out to his father for help. He later died of his wounds. Officer Jay Cicinelli can be heard on tape explaining the situation to fellow officers: “We ran out of options so I got the end of my Taser and I probably … I just started smashing his face to hell.”
The media attention surrounding Thomas’ death has largely been local in nature; few national stories have focused on the beating. That’s no doubt due to the fact that Thomas is white; were he black, the media certainly would have jumped on the racial angle.
The death of Trayvon Martin shook the nation for weeks; even though there was no clear racial angle, the media manufactured one. When Rodney King was given a less severe beating by officers after resisting arrest, it started riots thanks to media attention and malfeasance. In this case, the victim was white, and so the media sees nothing of interest.