Kelly Thomas’ Father Files Lawsuit Against Fullerton

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On the first anniversary of the fatal police beating of mentally ill transient Kelly Thomas in Fullerton, his father filed suit Thursday against the city, two former police chiefs and the officers involved in the beating, accusing them of “knowingly, willfully and maliciously” mishandling their jobs in a way that led to his son’s death.

Kelly Thomas, 37, died July 10, 2011, five days after six Fullerton police officers smothered and beat him, according to the autopsy report.

Two officers, Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, have been charged by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter respectively and are awaiting trial.

The suit filed by Ron Thomas names all six officers, the city and former Policfe Chiefs Michael Sellers and Patrick McKinley. Sellers, chief at the time Kelly Thomas died, went on extended medical leave and then retired.

McKinley was Sellers’ predecessor and a member of the Fullerton City Council when Kelly Thomas died. McKinley was one of three Fullerton City Councilmen who were recalled in the June 5 election by voters upset that the city leaders didn’t act more decisively after Thomas’ death to root out problems in the Police Department.

The lawsuit lists seven cases that occurred before the Thomas beating that it asserts should have alerted the city and police leaders to problems within the department.

A video compiled by the district attorney’s office with footage from a police camera at the Fullerton Transportation Center, where the beating occurred, and audio from recorders worn by police shows Kelly Thomas repeatedly yelling that he couldn’t breathe and calling for help from his father.

According to the lawsuit, each of the defendants “knew that Kelly was mentally ill and was homeless as a result. Despite the city’s knowledge and awareness that its police officers had daily encounters with the mentally ill and homeless population in its city, the city did not and otherwise failed to obtain, provide and utilize resources available to it in order to properly train its police officers, including the individual defendant officers, on how to deal with persons who are homeless and with mental illness during encounters with police.”

Last month the city reached a $1-million settlement with Thomas’ mother, Cathy. Ron Thomas was not part of that settlement. Ron and Cathy Thomas are divorced.

— TRACY WOOD

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