Crime & Justice

Kelly Thomas' father files civil suit in son's death

Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father.
Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father.
Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, Pool photo

Listen to story

Download this story 0MB

The father of a homeless man, mentally-ill man beaten by Fullerton police a year ago is suing the city of Fullerton and six police officers.

Ron Thomas filed a civil lawsuit Thursday in Santa Ana Superior Court on behalf of his son, Kelly Thomas.

Thomas filed the lawsuit a year to the day that his son Kelly was beaten by Fullerton police officers.

The suit names the city of Fullerton, two former Fullerton police chiefs, Patrick McKinley and Michael Sellers, and the six officers involved in the incident as defendants.

Thomas said “Kelly’s murder” was the result of a culture of corruption and indifference in the Fullerton Police Department.

“We want to instill change, and without penalties, nobody’s going to change," said Thomas.

Thomas said his son’s federal and state civil rights were violated.

“They were totally violated. You know, we all have the right to life. They took Kelly’s right to life away from him and never gave him the opportunity," said Thomas.

Thomas said the lawsuit does not specify a dollar amount for damages.

He said Fullerton police used deadly force even though Kelly had not committed a serious crime or any crime at all.

Officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in the incident.

Both have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to be arraigned July 15.

A vigil Thursday attended by family members and friends at the Fullerton Transportation Center marked the one-year anniversary of the confrontation between Kelly Thomas and Fullerton police.

Kelly Thomas suffered from schizophrenia and was severely injured on July 5, 2011, during a confrontation with six officers who suspected him of breaking into cars. He died five days later.

The encounter was captured on video and raised issues about whether officers are adequately trained to deal with the mentally ill.

Thomas' death stoked an outcry by residents, the recall of three council members, an FBI investigation and criminal charges against two of the officers.

This story has been updated.