Fullerton officer accused in Kelly Thomas killing will keep pension
A Fullerton police officer and former LAPD officer accused in the death of a homeless man will not have his $40,000 annual disability pension from the city of Los Angeles reduced.
The board responsible for overseeing fire and police pensions in Los Angeles voted Thursday against launching a review of Jay Cicinelli’s disability pension. The vote followed an emotional appeal by Cicinelli’s father, who decried what he called "lies and mistreatment" of his son by Los Angeles Police Department officials.
Cicinelli lost an eye when he was shot while on duty as a rookie LAPD officer in 1996. When officials told him they no longer had a place in the department for a probationary officer with only one eye, Cicinelli went to court in an attempt to keep his job, but eventually accepted retirement with a disability pension of 70% of his salary.
Despite his disability, Cicinelli was hired as an officer by the Fullerton Police Department, where he worked his way up to the rank of corporal, eventually earning $88,544 a year. Cicinelli’s case came to the attention of Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions Department staff over the summer when his name surfaced in news reports as one of six officers involved in a violent struggle that led to the death of a homeless man, Kelly Thomas, in Fullerton.
Cicinelli faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in the case and has been placed on unpaid leave by the Fullerton department. A second officer, Manuel Ramos, was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Four other officers involved in the case were not charged.
But the board voted Thursday, 5-3, to deny staff permission to launch the review.
Cicinelli’s father, John Huelsman, told the board that after Cicinelli was shot, LAPD officials at first touted him as a hero and said he would not lose his job over his injury, but then changed their tune and told him he could no longer work as an officer.
“All he wanted to do was remain an LAPD officer -- that’s all he ever wanted to do,” Huelsman told the board.
Huelsman said that higher-ups at the LAPD had been aware from the beginning that Cicinelli was working as a Fullerton officer while collecting his disability pension.
“You guys may not have known about it, but [former Chief] Bernard Parks did. Everyone in command knew where Jay was,” he said. "Then all of a sudden he gets involved in something over there … and the board is going to open it up and say we’re going to take a look at this, we didn’t know he was a cop.”
Some board members expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of a procedure to identify disability pensioners who may be working in jobs inconsistent with their disability awards.
Department staff said they were looking at new procedures for identifying pensioners whose awards should be reviewed and prepare a report on the matter for the board.
-- Abby Sewell
Photo: Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli sits among attorneys as he waits for his arraignment hearing in September. Credit: Paul Rodriguez / Associated Press