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Kelly Thomas death: Councilman 'sickened' by beating details

September 22, 2011 |  7:31 am

Jay Cicinelli in court A Fullerton city councilman who was police chief when the two officers charged in the Kelly Thomas case were hired expressed sorrow and remorse after hearing details of the beating that preceded Thomas' death.

"I am absolutely sickened and my heart is just bleeding for the city, the Thomas family and the Police Department," Pat McKinley said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "I just don't understand how those officers could do what they did."

The Orange County district attorney's office charged Officer Manuel Ramos with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.

In a detailed account compiled through video and audio recordings and witness statements, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas alleged that Ramos snapped on a pair of latex gloves, held up his fists and told Thomas he was "ready to F you up" and hit the homeless man without provocation.

Cicinelli allegedly kneed Thomas twice in the head, Tasered him four times and hit him eight times in the face with the Taser, even as Thomas became unresponsive.

Ramos is a 10-year veteran of the Fullerton Police Department and Cicinelli has been on the force for 12 years.

Before he was hired in Fullerton, Cicinelli worked for the Los Angeles Police Department. He lost an eye after a suspect shot him six times during a traffic stop in 1996.

The LAPD took him off patrol duty because of his injury and he sued the department to get his old assignment back. Instead of being placed back on patrol duty, he was awarded in 1998 a pension of 70% of his salary for the rest of his life.

McKinley, who served as Fullerton's chief from 1993 to 2009, said he hired Cicinelli at the recommendation of LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Hillman, and Cicinelli underwent psychological testing before he was hired by Fullerton.

McKinley said he was "extremely saddened" and "absolutely dumbfounded" by the allegations against Cicinelli.

McKinley is one of three council members facing a recall campaign largely because of their handling of the Thomas case.

McKinley, Councilman Don Bankhead and Mayor Dick Jones had come under criticism particularly for remaining tight-lipped about the case.

"I want to apologize to all those who thought I was being too quiet and too defensive," McKinley said, adding that he had been following the advice of city attorneys.

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-- Abby Sewell

Photo: Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli in court Wednesday. Credit: Paul Rodriguez / Associated Press.

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