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Update on Kelly Thomas: Cops Held Over for Trial

Love for a Stranger

August 14, 2011 Fullerton Rally in support of Kelly Thomas. Photo by infinityofideas.

After a three-day preliminary hearing, Orange County Superior Court Judge Walter Schwarm ordered Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Patrick Cicinelli to stand trial in the killing of Kelly Thomas. The almost-impossible-to-watch video of that fatal beating was released on Monday.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackaucka has not ruled out filing additional charges against one or more of the other four cops involved in the beating:

Kelly Thomas’ family and supporters have called for the arrest of Officer Joseph Wolfe, one of six police officers involved in the fatal altercation. In a video of the beating, Wolfe is seen striking Thomas. Wolfe and Officer Manuel Ramos, who is facing charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, were the officers on the scene.

Rackauckas did not name any additional officers, but when asked specifically about Wolfe, he said: “We are not done with this case…. We are still considering all the evidence.”

According to a long expose in the OC Weekly, Fullerton’s “Bullies in Blue” have a history of brutality and misconduct that goes back several generations. Officer Kenton Hampton, for instance, one of the six cops involved in Kelly Thomas’ death, has been bullying and arresting citizens on false pretenses for at least the past couple of years but has never been disciplined by the department. Hampton is facing at least one lawsuit; additional suits on behalf of Kelly and another victim of Hampton’s brutality are apparently forthcoming. [cont’d.]

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Fullerton’s former police chief, Pat McKinley, was an LAPD cop for 30 years and helped form the nation’s first SWAT team to crack down on the Black Panthers. He later made a name for himself in Fullerton by using a random killing as an excuse to raid dozens of houses in a predominately Latino neighborhood. McKinley is now a Fullerton City Councilman, one of three facing a recall over the Kelly incident. Here he is talking shit on CNN last summer about “the gravity of the situation” and how “witness statements are often flamboyant and exaggerated.”

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There’s an innocent explanation for the letters found in Kelly’s backpack but the cops preferred to cover it up and let people think Kelly had stolen mail. From the above-mentioned OC Weekly article:

At a bus stop, a local attorney approached Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, to tell him he felt detectives had prodded him to pin wrongdoing on his son. Police found papers from the man’s firm in Thomas’ backpack, so they contacted him. The attorney told them he had thrown the papers away in a trashcan on a public sidewalk, meaning Kelly had every right to pick them up. Goodrich says a detective did call to ask about the letter in Thomas’ possession, but, he contends, it was just a typical interview and there was no coaxing involved.

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Mental health professionals are hoping, once again, that the Kelly Thomas murder might result in reform. That Fullerton PD might, for instance, actually use the training that they have already received on how to interact with the homeless and mentally ill people they are sworn to protect and serve. In Los Angeles, police are required to alert a mental health evaluation unit when they encounter someone suspected of suffering from mental illness. Imagine how things might have gone differently if Officer Ramos had called in a professional to assist with the questioning of Kelly. Instead he called in five more bullies and they killed a man who had done nothing more than fish some papers out of the trash and stick them in his backpack.

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