May 23, 2012
UPDATED January 13, 2014: All the killers acquitted on all charges.
SANTA ANA, CA — Two former members of the Fullerton Police Department had their arraignments on murder and manslaughter charges delayed yesterday, while three others involved in the murder remain on paid vacation.
The defense said it needed more time to review transcripts from the preliminary hearing to prepare a motion to dismiss the charges. Former Fullerton cops Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were both charged with manslaughter last September. Ramos was also charged with second-degree murder. Orange County Superior Court judge Craig Robison bought the defense argument and reset the arraignment for June 26. Ramos is free on a $1,000,000 bond, while Cicinelli is free on a $25,000 bond.
Mr. Kelly Thomas was a 37-year-old transient who Ramos knew from policing the area. It was around 8:37 p.m. on July 5, 2011, when Mr. Thomas was sitting outside near the Fullerton Transportation Center on East Santa Fe Avenue. Police say they went to the area after receiving a call about someone vandalizing cars. Fullerton cops Manuel Ramos and Joseph Wolfe arrived in separate cars, with Ramos immediately exiting his car and confronting Mr. Thomas as he sat on the ground.
The next ten minutes would amount to nothing less than torture for the schizophrenic Mr. Thomas, as he was beaten with clubs, choked and tasered multiple times until he went into a coma. He died a couple days later. The autopsy said Mr. Thomas was basically crushed to death by the weight of the cops, combined with a broken face, head trauma, and numerous other injuries. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas called the murder “an act that was dangerous to human life and an act of reckless disregard for human life.” He continued, “citizen have a right to protect themselves from police.” The defense for Ramos and Cicinelli argued at the preliminary hearing that Mr. Kelly may have died from “an enlarged heart.”
WARNING: the surveillance video of the murder is graphic and disturbing, as you can hear Mr. Thomas pleading for his life and screaming for his father to help him.
Though six total cops were involved in the murder, only Ramos and Cicinelli were charged. The video clearly shows Wolfe beating Mr. Thomas with a baton, but he was not charged. The other three – Kenton Hampton, Kevin Craig and James Blatney – all were rewarded with paid vacations which they are still enjoying. Mr. Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, has worked tirelessly since his son was killed to get the others involved in the murder charged, especially Wolfe. Ron Thomas, who is a former Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy, called the killers “a gang” and said he is now ashamed to have ever been involved in law enforcement.
Ron Thomas got a small victory this morning, as it is being reported by Friends for Fullerton’s Future that both Ramos and Wolfe were fired this morning. They were terminated, however, for their refusal to talk to investigators, not for savagely killing Mr. Thomas. It is also being reported that Cicinelli was fired.
Though a police-friendly plea bargain is fully expected in the end, Ramos faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Cicinelli faces a maximum of four years.