Bouncer Claims False Report Led to Fatal Police Beating

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A former bouncer at a downtown Fullerton bar said in a lawsuit that a false report filed with police by one of the bar’s managers led to the fatal police beating of mentally ill transient Kelly Thomas.

The lawsuit, first reported by The Orange County Register, was filed by Michael Reeves, who was fired as a bouncer by the Slidebar Rock-n-Roll Kitchen.

The bar is near the Fullerton Transportation Center, where the 37-year-old Thomas was beaten by a group of Fullerton police officers. The back of the Slidebar opens onto the parking lot next to the bus station.

The Register story says Reeves contends Thomas was just picking up cigarette butts, but the bar manager called police and falsely claimed he was trying to break into cars.

Reeves, who was fired by the Slidebar, seeks $4 million in his suit.

The Register reported Slidebar owner Jeremy Popoff confirmed that a bar employee called police from her cell phone that night but said the bar and its lawyer called Reeves’ claims “completely frivolous.”

From the Register story:

[Reeves] claims that Popoff, the bar owner, had a policy of chasing away homeless people such as Thomas – a claim that Popoff denied through his attorney as “insulting and horrific … absurd.”

Reeves says managers at the Slidebar were told to “call the police and do anything necessary” to keep Thomas away. When he showed up on the evening of July 5, Reeves claims, a manager called police and reported that he was trying to breaking into cars to ensure a quick police response.

The manager’s “blatantly false statement” made police think they were responding to a crime in progress, Reeves claims in the suit. That confusion “gave way to greater confusion and ended only after it was too late,” he says.

Criminal charges have been filed against two officers, Manual Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, in connection with Thomas’ death. Ramos is accused of second-degree murder and Cicinelli of involuntary manslaughter.

— TRACY WOOD

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