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Fullerton, California to Pay $4.9 Million Settlement for Kelly Thomas Police Beating Death

Kelly Thomas in 2002 and after being mortally beaten by Fullerton police.

Kelly Thomas in 2002 and after being mortally beaten by Fullerton police.

The city of Fullerton, California has agreed to pay $4.9 million to settle a civil wrongful death case stemming from the July 2011 police beating death of a mentally ill homeless man.

The Orange County Register reports attorneys struck the deal early on Monday, just hours before a civil trial was scheduled to begin in the wrongful death claim involving 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, who was homeless and suffered from schizophrenia.

Thomas was stopped by Fullerton police searching for a “homeless looking man” who was allegedly attempting to burglarize vehicles on July 5, 2011. Thomas resisted a police search, prompting officers to beat and Taser him. Thomas attempted to flee, but officers caught him and continued to pummel him with flashlights while shocking him with Tasers.

“They kept beating him and Tasering him. I could hear zapping, and he wasn’t even moving,” witness Mark Turgeon told local reporters at the time. “He had one arm in front of him like this, he wasn’t resisting. And they kept telling him, ‘He’s resisting, quit resisting,’ and he wasn’t resisting.”

Thomas can be heard crying for his father in video footage shot by a bystander. The brutally beaten victim was taken to a nearby hospital and placed on life support. He died five days later. Thomas’ father, former Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Thomas, called his son’s death “cold-blooded murder.”

Fullerton police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli faced charges ranging from second-degree murder and manslaughter to excessive use of force. Among the evidence against the officers was a police audio recording of the encounter in which Ramos is heard saying, “see my fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up.”

Ramos and Cicinelli lost their jobs over Thomas’ death but kept their freedom, as the pair were acquitted of all charges in a January 2014 trial.

Dana Fox, an attorney for the city of Fullerton, told the Register that the $4.9 settlement settlement is not an admission of legal liability by the city or police. But Ron Thomas disagreed.

“They know they were guilty of murder,” the victim’s father said during a news conference following the announcement of the settlement. “By offering that amount, they feel they are getting off lucky.”

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