FULLERTON (CBSLA.com) — A wrongful-death lawsuit brought against the city of Fullerton in the death of Kelly Thomas has been settled for $4.9 million, attorneys announced Monday.
The Fullerton City Council approved the deal during a closed-door meeting called just as opening statements were set to being in trial of the lawsuit, which was filed by Thomas’ father, Ron, on the one-year anniversary of his son’s 2011 death.
The lawsuit alleged assault and battery, negligence, wrongful death and civil rights violations.
“I think it’s important not just for the residents of Fullerton, but for the city of Fullerton, the officers and Mr. Thomas,” said Fullerton City Attorney Dana Fox. “It buys everyone peace. It buys everyone some certainty. And everyone can move on and try to continue the healing process.”
But Ron Thomas said: “There’ll never be justice for killing my son.”
Despite the settlement, the city attorney said the current and former police officers and police chiefs named in the suit continue to dispute all the claims made by Ron Thomas on his son’s behalf.
Thomas was declared brain-dead the night of the struggle with police on July 5, 2011. The transient was taken off life-support machines five days later.
The lawsuit alleged that Thomas was killed by police who were poorly trained on how to confront a mentally ill person.
Attorney Garo Mardirossian, representing Ron Thomas, said earlier that evidence in the trial would show the officers violated their training and department’s rules and suffocated the 37-year-old at the Fullerton Transportation Center.
The attorneys representing the defendants said Thomas had a heart attack due to a pre-existing condition and the officers acted properly and were not at fault in the man’s death.
Former Officer Manuel Ramos and former Police Cpl. Jay Cicinelli were put on trial accused of excessive force. But they were later acquitted.
But Ron Thomas said the city’s decision to pay meant an admission of guilt. “This settlement, because of the amount offered, is speaking volumes. That is the guilt. That is the admission of liability. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. And I’ve got it.”
But the city does not admit any liability or wrongdoing in the agreement, according to Fox. He said the city and its insurers agreed with the settlement to “avoid a protracted trial.”
There were seven defendants in this case, including the two officers put on trial and Officer Jim Blatney and Sgt. Kevin Craig, who are still on the force. All of them continue to deny any liability.
Cicinelli declined to comment after the hearing because he is still fighting to win his job back. Cicinelli and former Officers Manuel Ramos and Joe Wolfe were fired after the deadly beating for violating city policy.