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Fullerton police to declare Kelly Thomas innocent of wrongdoing

September 18, 2012 | 10:35 am

Kelly Thomas case: 911 call Fullerton's acting Police Chief Dan Hughes is expected to read a short statement Tuesday to the City Council formally clearing Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man police officers are charged with beating to death, with any crime.

Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, has been asking the city to declare that his son never did anything illegal the night of July 5, 2011, when officers responded to a report of a person "trying" car doors in the transit center parking lot.

Authorities later said Thomas had resisted arrest.

DOCUMENT: Dispatch call that drew police

Ron Thomas told reporters over the weekend he has been working on a statement with Hughes and expects it to be read at Tuesday evening's meeting.

Fullerton Police Sgt. Jeff Stuart said Hughes' comments "will last about 30 seconds" and echo those in a recent report by independent consultant Michael Gennaco. He laid the blame for the incident solely on the officers' shortcomings and noted that on prior occasions, officers had easily dealt with Thomas.

Thomas died five days after the struggle with police. Officer Manuel Ramos is facing second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges while Cpl. Jay Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force. Both have pleaded not guilty.

They, along with officer Joe Wolfe, who is seen striking Kelly Thomas in a video of the incident, resigned from the department following an effort to fire them.

A video and audio of the incident shows a shirtless Kelly Thomas being hit repeatedly with fists, a baton and finally the butt of a stun gun by Fullerton police officers.

The video, shot by a security camera at the bus depot, initially captures Thomas being detained by Ramos and Wolfe. Thomas seems uncooperative and Ramos appears to grow angry.

"See my fists?" Ramos says.

"Yeah," Thomas replies. "What about 'em?"

"They're getting ready to ... you up," Ramos says while sliding on a pair of latex gloves.

The statements and the menacing action of putting on the gloves, said Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas at the preliminary hearing, set the deadly encounter into motion.

Thomas can be heard repeatedly saying "sorry" as Ramos and Wolfe strike him, instructing him to put his hands behind his back.

"I am sorry, dude, I can't breathe, dude," he says at one point.

One of the two officers can be seen in the video kneeing Thomas at least once, though some of the activity is obscured by a tree.

"I cannot breathe, man," Thomas says at another point as Wolfe tells him to relax.

When Cicinelli arrives and tells Thomas to stop resisting, the audio captures the sound of a Taser stun gun clicking rapidly as the homeless man growls in pain, his legs seeming to twitch.

Cicinelli later says, "We ran out of options so I got the end of my Taser and I probably … I just smashed his face to hell. He's on something, dude.... Three of us couldn't even control him."

By the time the confrontation ends, Thomas is lying in a pool of blood.

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--Richard Winton

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