Crime & Justice

Cop's stepfather source behind reports of Fullerton PD's intent to fire officers in Kelly Thomas beating

Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli confers with his defense attorney, Michael D. Schwartz during a preliminary hearing for the death of Kelly Thomas, on May 7, 2012.
Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli confers with his defense attorney, Michael D. Schwartz during a preliminary hearing for the death of Kelly Thomas, on May 7, 2012.
Pool/Getty Images

The Orange County Register says the stepfather of one of two Fullerton police officers facing charges in the death of Kelly Thomas has confirmed his stepson received a notice he will be fired from the department. The story cites another source who confirms a second officer also received a termination letter.

The letters are confidential under California state law, and citing the law, both the Fullerton Police Department and the City of Fullerton would not comment on their content.

The Register reports Fullerton police Cpl. Jay Cicinelli's stepfather has told them Cicinelli was notified of Capt. Dan Hughes' intention to fire him. The paper says it received confirmation from a different source that officer Manuel Ramos also received a similar letter.

Both officers face criminal charges from their part in a struggle with 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, last July at the Fullerton Transportation Center.

Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, and Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force under color of authority.

The officers can appeal their firing to the Acting Fullerton Police chief, then to the city manager. There are two more appeals steps in the process.

After an internal investigation by attorney Michael Gennaco, who was hired by the City of Fullerton, Acting Chief Hughes acknowledged notifying officers of his findings.

But the Orange County Register reports that Cicinelli's stepfather, John Huelsman, says Cicinelli received a 3-½ page letter detailing policy infractions that included not turning on his digital audio recorder attached to his belt and using too much force.

The Register says Huelsman told them the letter went on to state that "Cicinelli should have known that Thomas was suspected of a minor crime and, because he was shirtless, had no weapons and posed no threat," according to Huelsman.

The story quotes Huelsman: "Jay is going to fight every aspect of this. To tell him that he is pending termination and he should have known these things is absolutely asinine."

Ramos and Cicinelli are scheduled to face arraignment on the charges June 24 in Santa Ana Superior Court.

Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges. They remain free on bail and on unpaid leave from the Fullerton Police Department.

Kelly Thomas never regained consciousness after the struggle with police officers and died five days later.

The Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackuackas, said Thomas' death was due to the beating by officers.

Six officers were involved in the struggle with Thomas, but only two have been charged.

Rackauckas said the investigation is on-going and he did not rule out the possibility that other officers could be charged.

Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father, said he hopes Rackauckas will also charge Fullerton Police Officer Joe Wolfe, who is seen in a video of the incident using a baton.

"They're murderers with badges," Ron Thomas told KPCC AirTalk Host Larry Mantle Wednesday.

This story has been updated.