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Father Of Mentally Ill Man Who Died After Brutal Arrest To Receive $4.9 Million
The father of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia who died after a violent arrest, will receive a $4.9 million settlement from the city of Fullerton. The Fullerton City Council approved the settlement today, the same day that opening statements would have been made in the trial of a civil lawsuit filed by Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, City News Service reports.
Fullerton Police Officers Manuel Ramos and Joseph Wolfe were responding to report of someone vandalizing cars on July 5, 2011, when they encountered Thomas, 37, wandering around shirtless. Thomas had been diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 21 and had decided "he was better off living outdoors," according to his family's attorney, Garo Mardirossian, despite the fact that his parents and grandparents allowed him to stay with them whenever he liked. Since 1990, Thomas had had 92 encounters with police.
Officers attempted to search Thomas, who refused to tell them his name. When officers found mail in his possession addressed to an attorney, they suspected him of mail theft and attempted to arrest him. In total, six officers eventually responded, including Corporal Jay Cicinelli, Sergeant Kevin Craig and Officers Kenton Hampton and James Blatney. In a 33-minute video of the encounter, Thomas seemed confused by the officers' orders, and at one point Ramos is heard saying, "See these fists? They are about to fuck you up if you don't start listening." Thomas was eventually Tasered, and several bones in his face were broken during the beating that followed. He was declared brain dead that same night, and his parents chose to remove him from life support on July 10. A coroner later determined that the beating was so severe that it prevented Thomas from taking in enough oxygen. Cicinelli was recorded saying, "I fucking beat him probably 20 times in the face with this Taser."
Initially, Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, while Wolfe and Cicinelli were charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. Ultimately, Ramos and Cicinelli were found not guilty, while Wolfe's case was dismissed. Cicinelli, Wolf and Ramos were all fired from the department. Officers Kevin Craig and James Blatney, who also responded that night, remain with the department, according to the OC Register. The criminal case verdict spurred a number of protests, and Ramos was once run out of a Fullerton Denny's.
Thomas' mother, Kathy Thomas, accepted a $1 million settlement from the city in 2012.
The entire video of Thomas' arrest, which is graphic, can be seen below: