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Kelly Thomas's father files lawsuit on case's 1-year mark

Ron Thomas, center, is seen in this 2012 file photo. Thomas' son, Kelly Thomas, was killed following a violent altercation with Fullerton police.
July 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of a dark day in the city of Fullerton. It is the day Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, got into a violent confrontation with police, leading to his death. Now, Thomas's father is taking on the city and police in a lawsuit.

Ron Thomas filed suit Thursday. He told Eyewitness News that the lawsuit is aimed at the six Fullerton police officers involved in his son's beating and the former police chief.

Ron Thomas has been very aggressive in seeking reforms within the Fullerton Police Department ever since his son's death.

The city of Fullerton sent out a statement Thursday night, saying: "The City respects Mr. Thomas' right to file this lawsuit. The City has not seen the lawsuit and therefore cannot comment on its details until the City's legal counsel has had an opportunity to review it. "

Kelly Thomas was severely injured in a clash with a group of Fullerton police officers, who suspected him of breaking into cars last July at a bus depot in Fullerton.

Video evidence showed Fullerton police officers beating Kelly Thomas, who died four days later from his injuries. A year after the violent arrest, two officers are charged with homicide.

Thursday, a civil suit was added. It targets six officers, two former chiefs, the entire police department and the city of Fullerton.

"The police can't do this to anybody anymore. That's why we are doing all this," said Ron Thomas Thursday.

"The fact that he was homeless, the fact that he was mentally ill, did not reduce his rights," said Garo Mardirossian, Thomas's attorney.

The lawsuit alleges that the officers goaded the unarmed transient, then attacked him when he tried to defend himself.

"The contact points that send a potential of 50,000 watts of electricity through a body at a 55-second interval, over and over again," said Mardirossian.

The suit alleges corruption, that there is a pattern of false arrests by officers who wrote reports to agree with their partners despite what they knew to be the truth. It says the former chiefs and the city failed to properly train the officers.

Corporal Jay Cicinelli is accused of involuntary manslaughter. He should have never been hired, according to the complaint, because of his possible disposition to lash out. Cicinelli had lost his eye due to a shootout years earlier.

Officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second-degree murder in Thomas's death.

The officers' arraignment, which has been delayed several times to give the defense team more time, has been scheduled for July 17.

About punitive damages aimed at the officers, no amount is named but the plaintiffs want it to hurt.

"So they realize, 'We can't go beating up people because we may lose our homes if we do,'" said Mardirossian.

Community outrage over the past year has led to the ouster of city leaders. Ron Thomas is now engaged with the police department to put improve policy. He believes the suit is needed to make reforms stick.

"Because it needs to be changed for the people so this doesn't happen to somebody else with a son like Kelly, or a daughter, or to you," said Ron Thomas.


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