Ron Thomas woke up at 3:30 a.m. to his blaring ringtone.
Bad news. Half awake, Ron knew it could only be bad news.
Looking at his phone, he saw it was his daughter Christina calling.
“Kelly’s been beaten up,” his daughter said crying. “It looks like he’s going to die.”
At the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Medical Center, he was shocked to see his son. Instead of pale white skin, Ron saw a face that was brown and blue from dried blood and bruises. His once red hair and beard were now brown, untamed and coarse with his dry blood. His swollen face wasn’t the heart-shaped face it once was. There was blood everywhere.
No matter how hard he tried Ron could not get the image of his unrecognizable son’ s face out of his head. It was a horrible sight, but something inside Ron told him to capture it. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone to take pictures of his son’s now disfigured face.
His family was in disbelief and clueless. The doctors didn’t know what happened, and the authorities weren’t talking. But Ron wanted answers. At 7 a.m., a physician walked in to check on Kelly. Ron stopped her to ask what happened one more time.
“There was an altercation with Fullerton police,” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“Kelly was in a fight with police officers last night.”
There must be a mistake, Ron thought. Police officers couldn’t have beaten his schizophrenic son to a pulp. The idea was difficult to digest — especially since Kelly was not intimidating in size and was never armed with anything besides a guitar. How in the hell could this happen because of cops?
While Kelly sat in the hospital bed fighting for his life, Ron walked out of the hospital looking for answers.
He called local newspapers and television stations, but ABC Channel 7 was the only one that came.
“Oh, I’m so sorry about your loss,” the editors would say. “We’ll get back to you.”
Ron also called the Fullerton Police Department. He learned that the incident happened at a bus depot in Fullerton after officers responded to a call claiming that a suspicious person was breaking into cars. Kelly, the suspect, ran off when police came and resisted arrest once they got a hold of him. Six officers were at the scene.