Orange County News

Kelly Thomas case: 3rd cop could be charged

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Fullerton police officer could be charged in the death of Kelly Thomas.

The Orange County grand jury is set to convene Wednesday to hear testimony concerning former Officer Joe Wolfe's role in Thomas' death, according the Orange County Register.

Thomas, who was homeless and mentally ill, died July 10 2011, five days after a confrontation with six officers who thought he was breaking into vehicles. Wolfe was the officer who initially searched Thomas' backpack the night of the confrontation.

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes officially cleared Thomas of any wrongdoing.

"There's no evidence of which the Fullerton Police Department is now aware that Kelly Thomas actually tried to steal anything from any of the vehicles in the lot," said Hughes.

Hughes said Thomas' backpack was not stolen and had simply been left by someone at the bus depot. He also said reports that an officer injured his ribs during the confrontation were untrue. Hughes' declaration is consistent with the findings in an independent review of the case.

If convicted, Wolfe would be the third former Fullerton officer facing at least one criminal charge. Depending on the grand jury hearing, Wolfe could stand trial with former Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli for Thomas' death.

Cicinelli's stepfather attended Tuesday's City Council meeting and blasted Hughes and the council for bowing to public pressure.

Cicinelli has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. Ramos has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

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