Is Tony Bushala OC's Newest Kingmaker?

The founder of Friends for Fullerton's Future blog says his war on bad government didn't start with the Kelly Thomas beating, and it's not over yet

Is Tony Bushala OC's Newest Kingmaker?

Tony Bushala first met Manuel Ramos more than 20 years ago when Bushala played drums with Teatro Cometa, a theater group that performed bilingual one-act plays in Fullerton in the late 1980s and early '90s. Ramos, who was about 10, was the son of one of the actresses; his uncle, Bushala's best friend at the time, directed the troupe. Occasionally, Ramos would sit quietly in the audience and watch rehearsals.

Bushala, now 53 and a millionaire many times over, eventually moved on from drumming to managing his father's extensive properties in Fullerton and elsewhere, becoming a real-estate developer and a vocal opponent of city government. In 2006, Bushala was riding his bicycle when he bumped into Ramos, who was now a hulking, overweight guy in his mid-30s, dressed in the uniform of the Fullerton Police Department.

Ramos was sitting in the driver's seat of his patrol car, which was parked in a lot near Highland Avenue, just north of downtown. Bushala approached the driver's-side window and introduced himself. Though Ramos recognized Bushala, he didn't seem particularly friendly. Without so much as shifting in his seat or stretching his mouth into a smile, he simply extended his hand.

Tony Bushala
John Gilhooley
Tony Bushala
Bushala protesting against police brutality
Marisa Gerber
Bushala protesting against police brutality

"I don't know if he was being a dick so much as he was just being a little lazy to not get out of the car," recalls Bushala. "You see somebody you know, you stand up and shake their hand."

Bushala quickly forgot the perceived slight and didn't think about Ramos again until early August 2011. On the evening of July 5, Fullerton cops had confronted Kelly Thomas, an unarmed homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia. Because Thomas didn't immediately comply with their commands, the officers Tased him repeatedly and beat him so badly he suffered a smashed cheek bone, a shattered nose and broken ribs. The first media outlet to publish a graphic photograph of Thomas in the hospital was Friends for Fullerton's Future (fullertonsfuture.org), a rollicking political blog that Bushala founded four years ago. The image of Thomas' lifeless, unrecognizably swollen face, half-hidden behind breathing tubes, would quickly be broadcast around the world. It had been taken by Thomas' father, Ron, a retired Orange County sheriff's deputy, just hours after the beating. His son was taken off life support on July 10.

Now, a month after the beating, Bushala was about to break another major story by giving the world the names of the six officers involved in the incident. Among them was Ramos, who had sparked the lethal confrontation by menacing Thomas, standing over him as he donned a pair of latex gloves, threateningly telling him, "These fists are ready to fuck you up."

Bushala says he took no pleasure in realizing Ramos' role in the beating. "His mother is my friend," he says. "I still like her. It was sad to know that it was Manny who was one of the cops who started the fight."

In the wake of the alleged murder, Fullerton police officials sought to downplay Thomas' death, suggesting (wrongly, as it turned out) that the victim had actually injured his attackers. Worse—to Bushala, at least—was the fact Fullerton's elected leaders seemed unconcerned. Through Bushala's determination to publicize the killing and name those responsible, Kelly Thomas' brutal death has become a fountain of universal outrage that has united everyone from left-wing Occupy activists to John and Ken radio-show fans in calls for justice.

Ron Thomas gave Bushala permission to publish the gruesome photograph. "I wanted people to know what was done to my son," Thomas says. "Tony convinced me it would definitely get out there. I had no idea it would go worldwide."

It might seem unlikely for a hyper-local blog such as Bushala's to break a nationwide story. But if anyone in Fullerton could be expected to take on such a story, it would be him. By the time Ramos and his partners assaulted Thomas, Bushala had already developed a reputation as a rabble-rouser whose revulsion for certain prominent local officials knew no bounds.

Bushala blames complacent city officials for allowing such abuses to happen. He is now almost-single-handedly financing an expensive recall effort aimed at the Fullerton City Council that has gathered nearly 18,000 signatures, well more than the 10,552 required by law. The recall election, which will be held concurrently with the statewide primary on June 5, will see 13 candidates, including Friends for Fullerton's Future bloggers Travis Kiger and Greg Seborn, vying for three possible seats on the council.

Bushala's critics call him a bully who used his substantial financial resources to fund narrow political attacks against his enemies. "If you're willing to spend the money, you can qualify almost anything for a ballot," says Larry Bennett, chairman of Protect Fullerton-Recall NO, which has made Bushala the central issue of its platform.

"Bushala will stop at nothing to win," says the group's website. "He's even used the tragic death of the homeless transient Kelly Thomas to advance his radical agenda of legalizing marijuana and disbanding the Fullerton Police Department."

An unabashed libertarian, Bushala doesn't deny his support for allowing ailing Californians to smoke marijuana, which has been legal in the state since 1996, nor does he deny his deep pockets have allowed him to have a strong voice in his community.

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72 comments
Gloria
Gloria

"I don't know if he was being a dick so much as he was just being a little lazy to not get out of the car," recalls Bushala. "You see somebody you know, you stand up and shake their hand." To Tony, by your own words you stated that "he simply extended his hand, meaning he did shake your hand. What did you expect him to do get our of his car and kiss your ass? Maybe there is where the problem started, his way of telling you that he was not going to be one of your flunkies. ONE YOU COULD'NT BUY AND THIS PISSED YOU OFF.......

Someoneyouusedtoknow
Someoneyouusedtoknow

Hey Tony...the TRUTH about you is gonna hit you hard!!! You must of forgotten the days of you cruising in your blue convertible Mercedes down Truslow & Malden to "pick up" you're a lying sack of shit!!! You may have all these people fooled, but KARMAS a BITCH you scum bag!!!

PrisonReformMvt
PrisonReformMvt

WholeTruth2012-why dont YOU tell the whole truth on how you harass others? How you go around leaving nasty comments everywhere there is a Kelly Thomas article? How I would NOT allow your comments to be published on my blog? How I now have your IP address because YOU dummy, had no idea my blog logs that information. I know more about you than you would probably like at this point -so its time you Stop with the harassment, stop with your lies.....and stop with your slander. In fact- just shut up.

Paul Hertz
Paul Hertz

No way would Ramos or Cicinelli would be charged without the continual pressure from FFFF bloggers. This includes the downtown demonstrations that were picked up by news organizations around the country. This takes guts and FFFF has guts.

☣  Porno the Clown  ☣
☣ Porno the Clown ☣

Without the hard work by Tony Bushala and Kelly's dad, Ron Thomas, Kelly's death would have been swept under the rug. Tony should be on the cover of Time magazine as well.

Ivn
Ivn

it's just that Orange County has never learned to live with itself well enough to have policing as strict as it has become.Ur poor too bad time to get hurt,ur a homeless in someones way, time to get hurt.Gunna Obey, if not then U get HURT.See what Orange County has to deal with if any of the problem Cities are going to allow for poor people to have a life.Look at the average middle class White person who gets locked up.OC Sheriffs can make any man bleed real good.I can pray for Any of you who get the Cops on your A_ _. Your life is going to make a change for the worst and that's for life.Huh,California will be a deep dark hole for many more poor people as OC hungers for an industry . .And not a Drug Industry either.

Jon
Jon

I think the work Tony did in regards to the Kelly case is admirable. I also think his efforts to finance a recall and build a city council majority that would benefit him are not. Also, interesting that the article did not mention Ron's view of the recall and be has publicly said that his son's death has been used to further political agendas of FFF...

A-nonymous
A-nonymous

Hey Tony, never-ever compromise the truth for anything else. It takes a lot of balls these days to do the right thing and every man seems to have his price apparently. It's important that you stick to what is right, we need people to fight for the right things. I lost my job as a cop because I wasn't aggressive enough but I can hang my hat on that I always did what was the right thing. You are in the position to do the right thing, continue to do it. You have a lot of supporters out there.

Dan C.
Dan C.

I don't understand what all the hubbub is about here.

MY BLOG repeatedly hit's on HARD political events and issues. recently I myself wrote about Michele Martinez hairstyle. There are things that matter to OC, in Irvine, we have much more important issues, like Beth Krom and building 2,800 houses on the Great Pork land.

My Co-Blogger has made fun of Michele "Snooki" Martinez and others, even though he lives in Long Beach. We joke about our enemies weight, but reserve the right to joke about thiers.

Simply put, The Hero's convention this weekend (where we'll be in FULL COSTUME) does far more for society than these silly stories about Murder and Police Abuse.

Mox- how come you didn't cover MY TRIP TO THE FARMERS MARKET?????

Teatrocometa
Teatrocometa

I was informed of a blog concerning a reply to an article on Tony Bushala in OC WeeklyWhere Tony speaks of the friendship we had at one time and of his encounter with officer Manuel Ramos, my nephew. I have not found the blog and would appreciate to this person to please print your name next time when you comment your opinions on other people's relationships or attitudes toward others. As for myself, I need not anyone replying on my behalf, thank you.

Teatrocometa
Teatrocometa

Tony was NEVER best friends with Manuel"s uncle or was ever considered a friend by Manuel"s mom. But what Bushala so conviniently chose to leave out is that Manuel"s uncle worked with the homeless in Fullerton for many years and founded FIES along with Barbara Johnson. Manuel as a boy spent many hours at his uncle"s side at the shelter volunteering. The picture that the media has chosen to paint of him is far removed from the person that his family and friends know and love.Tony and George Bushala have a lot to learn about friendship.

Alex
Alex

Thank god people like Tony Bushala exist, and especially that they have money, that is the ability to spread the message about the corrupt "public servants".

Worms, District Attorney Rackauckas, and Turtles are all proud Birds, they won't start flying until you KICK them.

Keeper of Justice
Keeper of Justice

Go Tony. No wonder people talk ridiculous, insane, unsubstantiated, criminal shit about him, he will expose their dirty laundry in a second and they don't like that. Haha. I'm with you Tony.

Bighenry
Bighenry

Ron is not a retired deputy, he didn't even have a career as a cop. He never made probation and was fired from OCSD for incompetence.

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

That's just your sad little opinion. All blogs log IP addresses.I don't harass anyone . I speak my mind. Don't confuse what I do with what YOU do.What I say is the TRUTH the WHOLETRUTH.

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

It takes ego, and Tony's is as big as they come. People with any intelligence can see thru his feigned modesty. He doesn't care about the material wealth his daddy's money will buy. Political Power is what he buys and it hasn't come cheap just ask Chris Norby.

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

Yes without Ron Thomas' hard work especially with his son............

Ron once used his jujitsu skills to apprehend his son, wrestling Kelly into his car from a Yorba Linda park using wristlocks. A lot of things I did with Kelly were very painful. But what are the alternatives?” -Orange Coast Magazine, March 2012

When something could have been done to actually help Kelly, Ron would tell local police departments that he (Kelly) was their problem now.

But wait is there a big payday in the horizon? Talk about a media whore!There is not a medium that Ron Thomas does not want his mug on...now he cares.Why not especially when Peter Tilden throws in a Spa day.

FullertonStalker
FullertonStalker

Prove that he will financially benefit from the recall. Oh yeah, that's right, you can't. He doesn't take redevelopment funds like "Dick" Ackerman.

Bferguson
Bferguson

Actually Jon, if you take a closer look, Ron did refer to the recall. I'll post it here for your review:

"If there were a city government and a mayor that cared, these officers wouldn't have been on the street. These three guys never cared."

liar
liar

You can't fix stupid with duct tape

Kataustintx
Kataustintx

Go to hell manuels family n supporters! Karma is coming u dipstick no good killer blood running thru ur viens

liar
liar

ok, Teatrocometa -that's a great real name

Joe Blow
Joe Blow

Your nephew is a cold-blooded killer. And he's fat :) Rumor has it fatso lost 75 pounds recently. Such a shame he couldn't keep himself in shape while working for FPD. I'm sure knowing you caused the death of an innocent man is harmful to your health. Manny should take the easy way out.

Tokers Towner
Tokers Towner

Nobody painted a picture of Marrano Ramos, we saw what he did on the survailence video

Joe Blow
Joe Blow

I'm so glad Ramos helped homeless people as a child. I did too. Now I'm off to murder a couple. Do I get bonus points for if they have disabilities? I've worked w/ Special Olympics. Also, just last week I donated some money to CHOC. Might as well kill a couple kids too. I never knew charity could be so fun!

Guest
Guest

If all that is true, it doesn't take away from the fact that he murdered Kelly Thomas.

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

Or want to run for the office of Attorney General.

Teatrocometa
Teatrocometa

What about Tony"s dirty laundry? What about the skeleton"s in his closet? They are next to his crystal meth>

Kataustintx
Kataustintx

Who cares!!! Stupid idiots! Got nothing to do w his sons murder by that fattttt lard azz

Demur
Demur

Oh, well that changes everything.Kelly wasn't beaten to death. You idiot.

Ron Thomas
Ron Thomas

I don’t go into my Military or Law Enforcement careers as it has nothing to do with the murder of my son. Everything that I do is about Kelly, none of it is about me. Keep making up all the crap that you want about me that you want. None of it matters as I am busy helping to put murdering cops in prison. Who knows, maybe your one of them.

demur
demur

You are a huge throbbing weiner and will always be one.May you go thru everything you spitefully spew vomit on and make up lies about.

Every good person you try to drag thru the gates of hell with you (which by the way, you will be busting wide open), you evil SOB, with nonsense is being recorded and you will have to answer to them.

demur
demur

derrrr, you are a mental patient.

☣  Porno the Clown  ☣
☣ Porno the Clown ☣

Do you personally know the Thomas family, are you privy to all the efforts family made to help Kelly for decades prior the the Fullerton cops murdering him? Based on your comments here I can say you do not know the family.

What is clear is that you fully support the Fullerton cops who murdered Kelly. Kelly was well known in the area and the cops knew full well he was mentally ill ... yet the assholes chose to ignore all that and to use Kelly for their own sick sport. Face it, the Fullerton PD has a long history of abusing citizens and covering it up. Well, the city is now on the hook for countless millions in pay outs on the backs of the cities fine citizens.

Glad to know what side of the fence you are on asshole!

Gigi905
Gigi905

Joe..you really blow!

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

He did not murder anyone he was just dealing with a person whose own family had to use force with:Ron once used his jujitsu skills to apprehend his son, wrestling Kelly into his car from a Yorba Linda park using wristlocks. "A lot of things I did with Kelly were very painful. But what are the alternatives?” -Orange Coast Magazine, March 2012

Kataustintx
Kataustintx

Lol! Nice try murderer!! Ur goin to prison fat boy! No menudo

bugface
bugface

prove it , you dirty scum

Wonder what skeletons are in YOUR mamas closet

Wholetryth2012
Wholetryth2012

STOP telling the press that you were with the OCSD then and we will stop calling you on it.

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

You don't want to go into your Law Enforcement career because you did not have one! You were kicked out because you were incompetent. TELL THE TRUTH RON!

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

So we shouldn't ask you how you enjoyed your spa day courtesy of Peter Tilden?

Onyx
Onyx

The main problem, Ron, is that you had been running around touting this long career in law enforcement & extensive investigative experience.

IMHO, it just made you look bad.

And, no, I'm not one of the "murdering cops". Just somebody who has integrity.

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

Integrity is not something within Ron Thomas' brief.

Kataustintx
Kataustintx

U fat jerk !! We know its taco luver!! Pr his kids r wife ? Pic a relative. I wouldnt show who i really was either at this point. Id be leaving fat boy before he goes to meet his new boyfriends in prison! I know they hear kellys cries every nite!!! U will bow hear our cries for justice fatt boy !!! We are going to take ur freedom and maybe just maybe ur new boyfriend will use latex on u !!! Pucker up luver boy !! Anticipation of going to jail is part of my pleasure w u!! U know ull be cinvicted dont u !!!!

 
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