Crime & Justice

Report says former Fullerton cops who beat Kelly Thomas violated policy

Defendant Manuel Ramos listens to closing arguments during his criminal trial.
Defendant Manuel Ramos listens to closing arguments during his criminal trial.
Joshua Sudock/Pool Photo

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Three former Fullerton police officers involved in the 2011 beating death of a mentally ill homeless man were found to have violated department policy on use of force, conduct and other tactics, according to a previously confidential report on the incident.

Former Corporal Jay Cicinelli violated the Fullerton Police Department's deadly force policy when he kneed 37-year-old Kelly Thomas in the head twice and beat him in the face with his Taser "multiple times" on July 5, 2011, according to the report by independent auditorsThe incident was caught on street surveillance video.

Former officers Manuel Ramos and Joseph Wolfe violated the department's use of force policy when they used their body weight to subdue and arrest Thomas, the report said. 

Thomas died five days after the beating. The coroner's report determined Thomas died as a result of mechanical chest compressions and cranial-facial injuries.

"Ramos’ weight and the body weight of other responding officers on Thomas may have been partially responsible for Thomas’ ultimate demise," according to the report. It used similar language for Wolfe.

The report noted that Cicinelli was captured in police audio recordings saying that after he ran out of options in trying to control Thomas, Cicinelli used his Taser against Thomas' head and "probably just smashed his face to hell."

"The mental imagery that such statements convey is a savage person who is willing to abuse his position of authority to exact street punishment to citizens he encounters," the report stated.

Michael Gennaco and Stephen Walsh of the police-auditing firm Office of Independent Review wrote the report. It was never introduced as evidence during the 2013-14 criminal trial of Ramos, Cicnelli, and Wolfe because they were compelled to give statements to Gennaco and Walsh, and compelled statements by officers aren’t admissible in criminal court.

The report has become public as part of court documents filed in a wrongful death civil lawsuit brought by Thomas' father Ron against the city of Fullerton and police officials. Trial in the civil case is scheduled to start on July 24.

The jury in the officers' criminal trial found Ramos and Cicinelli not guilty of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. Charges against Joseph Wolfe were eventually dropped. All three officers were terminated from the Fullerton Police Department but are trying to get their jobs back.