if i had to give someone a brief, on the run description of what happened to kelly it would be this. he was homeless. he was mentally ill and diagnosed with Schizophrenia. he lived on the streets and apparently people in that area were familiar with him. the police officers should have been also. he was described as harmless, i'm not so sure about that. he was attempting to open up car doors and the police were called and responded. he resisted. they beat him to death. that would be it in very brief summary.
a summary, that's about it for most of america. they've briefly read the account of what happened and heard about the trial. they've come to their own conclusions about the validity of what happened and for some it may have caused a few moments of thought about the homeless. for some it would have concreted what they already thought. for others it did neither, because they seldom think about the poor and homeless and don't want to.
i think all of america should stop and take a few minutes and think about what happened to kelly thomas. he was a schizophrenic who was homeless. that in itself should be cause for concern. how could a young man with a troubled past, suffering from schizophrenia be wandering the streets trying to open unlocked car doors. what happened? how did he fall into the cracks of our society and end up there, on that night, with six police officers who responded to the call. how on that nite did a mentally ill man who is 5'9 and thinly built provoke six trained police officers to the point of beating him to death? where did our system of dealing with the mentally ill go so wrong that this man was in that place at that time? isn't this the argument gun control advocates use when they say guns end up in the wrong hands....of criminals and the mentally ill. what if kelly thomas had been carrying a gun? it could have happened....easily. this is one the problems you have to deal with and keep in mind when you're trying to come up with a solution for homelessness. what about the mentally ill? what about the people who are mentally ill, but by law are still capable for caring for themselves and making decisions?
what about the reaction to the death of kelly thomas and the subsequent trial and the not guilty verdict. come on america....do you really think these police officers weren't guilty of manslaughter? they were as guilty as surely as someone committing a knockout game murder. they were guilty as surely as a soldier intentionally killing a civilian in iraq or aghanistan. they were guilty as surely as a bank robber who inadvertently kills during his crime. did they intentionally kill kelly thomas? i doubt it. did they intentionally beat him because they were angry and wanted to teach him a lesson? yes. did they beat him because he was homeless? yes....partially. did the jury reach a not guilty verdict because he was homeless. yes...that and the propensity to not convict a police officer who commits manslaughter in the act of what is perceived as doing his duty. but remember....they were sworn to protect and serve everyone. they were sworn to uphold everyone's rights and not to use undue force. not just to people who have homes.....everyone. did they fail in this....yes.
i've seen with my own eyes police officers abuse the homeless. it comes out of frustration and dealing with them on a daily basis. in some ways it can be more frustrating than dealing with a drug dealer or a petty criminal. the anger builds and the frustration mounts. the officer loses his temper and it can happen....just that quick. homeless people can be a nuisance. they can be annoying. they can be very frustrating. but they are also citizens. they are citizens of the city they live in. the police officer's job is not to determine which individuals deserve which treatment. their duty is to uphold the law and the constitution of the land for all citizens. yes....even the homeless citizens.
when it comes down to it, the homeless are a lost group of people. in general they have been abandoned by their family or they have isolated themselves from friends and relatives. they usually have no close friends other than other homeless people. if it had not been for the video you would not have heard the name kelly thomas. maybe a quick headline or a new comment on msnbc or fox. but you would not have heard about kelly or the trial or the verdict or the repercussions from both. i would not be writing this entry about him. listen....seriously....i could have been kelly thomas. if i had been in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong police officer, i could have been him. if i had provoked that officer in the slightest way, i could have been kelly thomas. america has hardened itself to the homeless and the poor. there is a stereotype about the homeless that every one is a drunk or an addict and somehow a public nuisance and menace. we are going to rob you or ask you for money or urinate on your sidewalk. we have been dehumanized to the point that something like the kelly thomas incident can happen and mainstream america shrugs it off. i know of an incident where two people burned to death in a fire here in wilmington. they were homeless. the responders were told that two people were living in the abandoned house that burned and they didn't get out. noone would listen... noone. the homeless kept talking and pleading and arguing that they were in the building when it burned. there were eye witnesses. within a couple of days the building was razed. had it not been for the intervention of a state official, the bodies never would have been recovered. one of the individuals' bodies had already made its way to the dump site. if these two had not been homeless and if the people telling officials that they were in the building at the time of the fire had not been homeless, that tragedy never would have happened.
it's too late to save kelly thomas. but perhaps his death can save others. perhaps it will somehow motivate and stir a new perception of the homeless and how and what needs to be done. perhaps it will save a kelly thomas somewhere in america. maybe the death of kelly thomas will bring a new awareness to the cause and problems of homelessness in america. perhaps it will change the view of the homeless in america. perhaps socio-economic discrimination and misconceptions will begin to change
maybe...perhaps....i doubt it. remember america...kelly thomas could have been me...your son....your brother.....or even you. it's time to change things before it is.
see you around town