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Uproar At Fullerton City Council Meeting Over Violent Police Arrest Of Homeless Man

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FULLERTON (CBS) — A Fullerton city council meeting turned into a shouting match with city leaders storming out Tuesday night.

The episode is the latest fall-out from the death of a homeless man that followed a violent arrest by Fullerton police.

The police department is embroiled in two probes of the in-custody death of the homeless, mentally ill Kelly Thomas in July.

The probes are now joined by another internal investigation, ordered by acting Police Chief Kevin Hamilton Tuesday into the arrest of a man in October. He was later acquitted of attacking an officer and resisting arrest.

Fullerton police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich could only confirm that Hamilton ordered an internal affairs review of the arrest of Veth Mam on Oct. 23, 2010.

“Based upon the information that was brought to our attention over the last week, acting Chief Hamilton has ordered an internal affairs investigation into the matter to determine what happened that evening in October 2010 and the court case this year,” Goodrich said.

Goodrich could not confirm or deny whether any of the officers involved in the Oct. 23 incident were also involved in the arrest of Thomas on July 5 at
the Metrolink station.

Mam was acquitted July 7 of misdemeanor charges of battery on an officer and resisting arrest. Mam’s attorney David Borsari said the cellphone video Mam started taking of the incident led to his acquittal, because it contradicted an officer’s testimony.

Just after 2 a.m. that night, Mam was walking to his car when he saw a friend being arrested by Fullerton police, Borsari said. Mam thought the police were using “excessive force,” so he took out his cellphone camera to record the event, Borsari said.

One officer at the scene knocked the camera out of Mam’s hand and another man picked it up and kept recording, Borsari said.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing Thomas’ death to determine if any laws were broken, and the FBI has a separate investigation
to determine if Thomas’ civil rights were violated.

Fullerton City Council members were poised Tuesday night to hire Michael Gennaco to conduct the police department’s internal affairs probe as well as a broader review that would include how police handle encounters with mentally ill people.

RELATED: Witnesses Recount Alleged Police Beating Of Homeless Man

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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