FULLERTON (CBSLA.com) — The Fullerton Police Department’s acting police chief Tuesday cleared Kelly Thomas of any wrongdoing when he was allegedly beaten by officers more than a year ago.
Dan Hughes’ statement at a city council meeting acknowledged that police had no probable cause to stop Thomas on July 5, 2011.
Police said the 37-year-old transient became combative when officers investigating reports of a man burglarizing cars in a Metrolink station parking lot tried to search him.
Thomas, who was a diagnosed schizophrenic, died five days later from injuries he suffered during his encounter with police.
“There is no evidence of which the Fullerton Police Department is now aware that Kelly Thomas tried to steal anything from any of the vehicles in the lot,” said Hughes.
Thomas’ father, Ron, thanked the city council for the announcement.
“Independent investigator Michael Gennaco cleared that up in different reports, but I had to hear it from the police department,” he said.
John Huelsman, the stepfather of former Corporal Jay Cicinelli, who faces involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with Thomas’ beating, accused the city council of bowing to public pressure by publicly convicting his son.
“A bunch of puppets, paid politicians,” Huelsman said.
He said he couldn’t believe Hughes publicly cleared Thomas’ name before the case goes to trial.
“This is a criminal matter. These guys could go to prison, whether you think they’re guilty or not. The city council just said they’re guilty because Kelly Thomas is innocent,” he said.
Legal analyst Amy Stoody-King said the statement should worry the two former officers on trial in Thomas’ death.
“If I represented either of these officers, I would be running to the District Attorney’s office and trying to work out a plea,” Stoody-King said. “This is a case in which probable cause was always an issue…the city is acknowledging that things weren’t done right.”
A grand jury on the case is expected to convene Wednesday. It’s possible charges against a third Fullerton officer could be filed for the alleged assault.