By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Tony approaches the makeshift memorial adjacent to the infamous gutter; a streetlight blooms with potted flowers and is wrapped with strands of Christmas lights. There, he encounters a skinny transient who goes by the name Scooterman. Clad in a yellow T-shirt, jeans and a floppy fisherman's hat, the man says he knew Thomas as "Caveman"—because of his wooly appearance.
Describing the night of the beating, Scooterman says he saw officer Cicinelli arrive on the scene and calmly walk past officer Ramos, who was holding Thomas down. He believes Cicinelli intentionally positioned himself between a nearby camera and Thomas before he began bashing the schizophrenic man repeatedly in the head with his Taser.
"Cicinelli started doing his craftsmanship," Scooterman recalls. "What he was doing was so outlandish. I was saying 'What's going on? He's not even resisting.'"
Suddenly, a transient named Piso Flores approaches and interrupts the conversation.
"You know this guy?" he asks, pointing to the memorial. "Keep up the good work."
Flores grabs one of the potted flowers and asks if he can take it.
Scooterman shakes his head. "It was brought by the family," he responds. "But I'm not going to say you can't take it"
Flores begins to walk away with the flower.
"Nah, man, put it back," Bushala barks.
The transient turns, and the two stare each other down.
"I'm going to give it a good home, man," Flores says, puffing out his chest.
"Put it back," Bushala repeats. "It's not yours."
For a second, a conflict seems inevitable, then Scooterman quickly gets between them and tells Bushala not to worry about it. "That guy is known to cause trouble," he says.
Bushala watches Flores leave with the plant. He shakes his head, then starts to laugh. A Fullerton police cruiser rolls through the parking lot of the nearby train station. Scooterman eyes the car warily. The officer stops to make contact with a couple of men sleeping beside the platform. The police leave without incident.
"These cops are a lot more mild-mannered," Scooterman says. "They drive slower; they look calm. It's completely different. It's easier to be yourself. Before Kelly Thomas, we were scared."
This article appeared in print as "The House That Tony Built: Is Fullerton developer Tony Bushala the county's newest kingmaker?"