As soon as Ron Thomas showed up at the district attorney's office around 10 a.m., reporters and members of "Kelly's Army" swarmed around him. That same clan would be there again an hour later when he learned that the D.A. charged two Fullerton policemen--Officer Manuel Ramos and Corporal Jay Cicinelli--in the beating death of his son Kelly Thomas, and again when he got to look both officers in the eye at their arraignment.
Around 10:15 a.m., Thomas said he knew it was rare for a D.A. to charge policemen. "Hopefully at least manslaughter for two officers. We would certainly have a renewed faith in this district attorney."
Then, a few minutes before 11, when the press conference was slated to begin, news leaked that one officer had been charged with second-degree murder and another with manslaughter.
Ron rushed through the crowd of reporters and over to Dana and Melissa Pape, Kelly's stepmother and stepsister. He whispered in their ears and then all three of them hugged each other. As a misty-eyed Melissa looked up at her mother, Dana said, "That's good news, baby."
Then, Ron headed toward a group of supporters from "Kelly's Army," and told them the news. "One for murder and one for manslaughter," he said. Some of the people cried, others stood still and one woman hoisted a sign with Kelly's picture on it into the air and said, "We finally got justice for Kelly." Ron smiled, hugged several people and said he was "ecstatic," but added that he still wanted to hear the news from the D.A. himself. "If this is all true, it'd make me believe the D.A. has done the right thing."
So he and several others walked to a TV news van and watched a live feed of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas' announcement. When Rackauckas said that he was, in fact, charging two officers, one with second-degree murder and one with manslaughter, Ron smiled slightly and nodded his head.
From inside a TV news van, Ron Thomas watches a live feed of the press conference.
Marisa Gerber/ OCWeekly
As she listened to Rackauckas describe, in detail, how Ramos threatened and beat her stepbrother, Melissa Pape's chin began to quiver and she looked up, before closing her eyes and burying her face in a Kleenex. Attorney Garo Mardirossian flung his arm over Ron Thomas' shoulder, shook his head and whispered to Ron: "They're telling the truth." Ron responded, "Yes they are."
A few minutes later, the crowd, including Thomas and his attorney, burst into applause after Rackauckas said, "Citizens have a right to self defense--even against the police." As the press conference finished up inside, the crowd outside circled around Thomas, who said, "I'm very emotional. Extremely happy with the D.A." Mardirossian echoed that, saying, "We must recognize and praise the district attorney."
The people in the crowd exchanged hugs and words of encouragement. "We, the people of 'Kelly's Army' believe that justice was served. Tony Rackauckas is a hero. He did his job. Thousands of citizens can rest assured that they will have a voice as long as he's the D.A.," said JoAnne AbuQartoumy.
Members of "Kelly's Army" consoling Kelly's step mom and step sister
Marisa Gerber/ OCWeekly
Some other members of "Kelly's Army," however, wanted more. "I think the other police should be held accountable and we still wanna see the video tape," said Charlotte Cianciola, who has attended several Saturday protests in front of the Fullerton Police Department.
Mardirossian then whisked Thomas inside the building for a meeting with the district attorney. Thomas later told the Weekly that he was extremely pleased with how the meeting went, adding that Rackauckas answered every question he asked. "We're all on the same team now," Thomas said.
After about an hour-long meeting, the men came out of the building and fielded a few questions from reporters. When asked what they talked about, Thomas said, "Obviously, I thanked him an awful lot." Later he said, "We came in here expecting the worst and we got the best." When asked about Rackauckas' decision not to charge the four other officers who were involved, Mardirossian said, "We have no criticism against him or the charges in this case." The attorney then stopped the press conference, but said he and Kelly Thomas' family would be at the officers' arraignment later in the afternoon.
A few minutes before 2 p.m., a crowd poured into Judge Erick Larsh's courtroom, which is only a five-minute walk from the district attorney's office. Kelly Thomas' family and several members of "Kelly's Army" showed up to see what would happen in the two cases: People vs. Ramos and People vs. Cicinelli.
Ramos, who wore and striped blue shirt and sat with his hands cuffed behind his back, pleaded not guilty, as did Cicinelli, who wasn't handcuffed, because he had already posted $25,000 bail. When Larsh asked Rackauckas, who is prosecuting the case, about his thoughts on Ramos' bail, Rackauckas deferred to Ron Thomas, who asked the judge not to reduce the bail.
Thomas later told the Weekly that he got a look at Ramos when he went up to speak to the judge. "He looked the way he should--in handcuffs," Thomas said, adding that he thought both policemen looked like "cowards, lonely cowards."
Michael Schwartz, who is representing Cicinelli, didn't answer any questions after the arraignment. "There will be a day, not today," he told reporters.
Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, left, and Officer Manuel Ramos at their arraignment
Pool photo by Paul Rodriguez/ The Orange County Register