The Investigators: Father of pepper spray victim says he feared for his son’s safety

Drew Thomas was seen on officer’s body camera video being sprayed four times
Updated: Sep. 10, 2020 at 9:11 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The father of the man pepper sprayed four times while handcuffed in the back of a Memphis Police cruiser sat down exclusively with WMC Action News Five Thursday.

Jimmy Thomas didn’t know his son had been at the center of a Memphis Police investigation until he watched WMC Action News Five, Wednesday night.

“Were you scared for his safety,” asked The Investigators.

“Yes ma’am, I really was,” said Thomas.

Memphis Police officers responded to the Shell gas station on Airways Boulevard in January 2019 after 30-year-old Drew Thomas vandalized the store.

“I said you’re under arrest ****** ******,” said the responding officer, William Skelton. “Get the **** over here.”

Officer William Skelton handcuffed Thomas and placed him in the back seat of his car.

When Thomas began kicking the door, Skelton pepper sprayed him four times.

As Thomas sat handcuffed and strapped inside of the car, he began to cry for help.

Those repeated pleas went unanswered.

“Was it hard to hear,” The Investigators asked Jimmy Thomas.

“Yes it was. Very hard to hear. This is your child, you know,” he said.

Thomas says his son has battled mental illness and drug addiction for most of his life.

“He’s well known in the system as a bipolar, schizophrenic,” said Thomas. “Him having a mental problem... I’m pretty sure these officers know that because this is not his first time around.”

In fact, the scene caught on Officer Skelton’s bod camera was the officer’s second encounter with Thomas that night.

“You understand me, ****head? I will spray the **** out of you! You worthless piece of incestuous ****,” Skelton said to Drew Thomas.

After the incident, the Memphis Police Department’s Inspectional Affairs Bureau launched an investigation.

Officer Skelton was charged with violating several MPD policies including excessive force.

“I foamed the **** out of him,” said Officer Skelton into his own body camera. “I’ll tell the camera I foamed the **** out of him.”

Internal records show Skelton resigned from MPD before his formal hearing.

The four other officers who responded to the scene that night were also charged with violating MPD policies.

They are still on the force, even after two of the officers were suspended for three days without pay.

“What do you think of those officers still being on the force,” asked the Investigators.

“I’m not going to say they need to lose their job,” said Thomas. “But maybe they need some other type of training or something. You can’t stand by and watch this kind of behavior from your coworkers.”

Memphis Police officers are now required to intervene if they see another member of the force doing something unsafe or unethical.

If they don’t, they themselves could be fired or criminally charged.

Meanwhile, Drew Thomas is currently in jail on a probation violation.

The WMC Action News Five Investigators began looking into excessive force complaints in late spring.

We requested the video of Thomas' arrest in July but it was only made available to us Wednesday.

We sent multiple interview requests to MPD but have not received a response.

We also tried reaching out to Skelton but were unsuccessful.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.