The Orange County District Attorney's Office is looking for witnesses to the incident between Fullerton police and Thomas that led to his death.
If you have any information about this incident, please call Investigator Stan Berry at (714) 347-8813.
EMAIL the THOMAS FAMILY - FreeSprit74@aol.com
FULLERTON (CNS) - The Fullerton City Council will soon have three new members, the result of a successful recall effort that ousted a trio of councilmen who were thrust into the national spotlight after the death of schizophrenic transient Kelly Thomas at the hands of police.
About two-thirds of voters supported the effort to oust Councilmen Don Bankhead, Pat McKinley and Frederick Richard Jones.
The recall had its roots in last July's death of Thomas, who got into a violent confrontation with police at the Fullerton Transportation Center and was hospitalized for five days before being taken off life support. Thomas' death sparked national news coverage with two officers being the first in Orange County history to be charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with an arrest.
Travis Kiger, a planning commissioner, garnered the highest number of votes to replace Jones for the balance of his term, which ends in November. The other candidates for Jones' post were Glenn Georgieff, an IT specialist; Roberta Reid, a student; Matthew Hakim, a musician and artist; and Dorothy Birsic, who did not list an occupation on her ballot statement.
Doug Chaffee, a business attorney, will replace McKinley for the two and a half years remaining in his term. Chaffee beat out Barry Levinson, an auditor and parks commissioner; Matthew Rowe, an aerospace project manager; and Sean Paden, a construction attorney for the post.
Bankhead will be replaced by businessman Greg Sebourn, who led the vote among Rick Alvarez, a planning commissioner; Paula Williams, who works for Orange County Social Services; and Jane Rands, a systems engineer. Sebourn will also serve for two and a half years.
Critics of the three councilmen complained the trio did little to address the growing public outcry over the way Thomas was beaten. Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva and Councilman Bruce Whitaker were not targets of the recall, in part because they were critical of the way former Police Chief Michael Sellers handled publicity about Thomas' death.
Ironically, one of the most insistent and powerful voices against the three councilmen is someone who couldn't even cast a ballot in the recall election -- the victim's father, Ron Thomas, who lives in Cypress. Still, Thomas worked with Fullerton residents who call themselves Kelly's Army as they organized to oust Bankhead, McKinley and Jones.
``They didn't do anything but sit there with smirks on their faces'' as residents barraged the council and city officials with criticism following Thomas' death, Ron Thomas said.
Bankhead, McKinley and Jones insisted in the days following Thomas' death that it was important for city officials not to comment because it could complicate or hurt the investigations of the officers involved.
``That's all B.S.,'' Ron Thomas said. ``You can't screw up the investigation because they would not have been told anything outside what the parameters of the law provide. Did Bruce (Whitaker) or Sharon (Quirk-Silva) screw up the investigation? No, they made (their concerns) public and said, `Hey, we want answers,' while the other three just sat there and when they did say something what they said was insensitive and nothing constructive.''
Larry Bennett, a planning commissioner who fought the recall, said the three council members, who all have backgrounds in the city's police department, knew that making comments about the case could jeopardize the city's standing in civil lawsuits as well as any criminal investigations of the officers.
Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in the July 5 beating of the 37-year-old transient.
Bennett accused local developer Tony Bushala of taking advantage of the public unrest after Thomas' death to continue a campaign against the three councilmen. Bushala has primarily bankrolled the recall supporters.
``It's a naked power grab,'' Bennett said of Bushala's support of the recall. ``And he's thrown everything at the wall he can think of to convince voters there's a huge crisis in Fullerton.''
Bushala said he is just a businessman and resident concerned about local issues who supports the recall because he feels the three councilmen failed at a time when the city needed leadership.
``They failed to lead us, especially during a crisis with the Kelly Thomas murder,'' Bushala said. ``It took protests, marching in the streets before they pulled the six officers (involved in Thomas' arrest) off the streets... Yes, I've spent a lot of money and thank God I do. Somebody needs to do this. ... I've done it in the past and I'll continue to do it to shine the light on the hypocrites and corrupt people. I've been an activist my whole life.''
Bushala said his campaign contributions and support of political causes have had nothing to do with his business.
``I've never asked the City Council to do anything special for me,'' Bushala said. ``I'm more concerned with holding our elected officials accountable.''
Bankhead, McKinley and Jones all cited Bushala, without naming him, in their ballot statements.
``Our city is under attack by a local developer who wants to control Fullerton by getting his people on council,'' McKinley, the former police chief, wrote in his ballot statement. ``He has spent almost a quarter-million dollars to recall me. Why? Because I represent the entire city and not just his radical causes.''
Ron Thomas watched the back and forth between Bushala and the council members with some interest, but he said he doesn't have a stake in it.
``It's an ongoing feud, if you will, the Hatfields and McCoys,'' Ron Thomas said. ``But not being a Fullerton resident I don't care about any of those things... I care about my son and justice for him.''