Kelly has been described by the defense team with several labels. Homeless. Schizophrenic. Vagrant. Nuisance. Not once did they call him a man. Never did they refer to him as a human being.
The verdict came back so quickly. I thought of the OJ Simpson trial but pushed the thought out of my head. A swift deliberation didn’t mean it would be acquittal, I told myself. I was sitting on the train on my way home when I heard the verdicts read live on the radio. Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty. Not guilty. It felt like four punches to the gut. As I was sitting among commuters over a thousand miles away from the courtroom, I held my tears in. I held my breath in. And when I finally got to my car an hour later, I wept alone in the darkness, the echo of Kelly screaming for his father playing over and over in my head.
I have gotten to know Kelly’s sister Tina over the past two years, and the thought of her anguish and the chilling sorrow her parents Ron and Cathy must have been feeling in the courtroom at that moment cut me through my soul. This verdict does not and will not ever make sense to me.
I am blessed that our encounters with police during several of Tim’s episodes were positive, and that I live near a large city that invests in CIT training for its police officers. What happened to Kelly and the Thomas family is a major reason why Tom and I participate in consumer panels during Chicago Police CIT Training classes. I think the best way we can honor the memory of Kelly Thomas is to continue to press for funding for CIT training for all police departments. Write to your county board of supervisors or your alderman and demand CIT training be funded for your local police. Attend a town council meeting and ask why 100% of your police force isn’t CIT trained. If not for Kelly’s memory, do it for our children, so that we may never have to watch a video of our child being beaten to death while calling out to us and to God for help.