One of the former Fullerton police officers who were found not guilty in the beating death of Kelly Thomas hopes to again begin policing with the Orange County city.
In the quickly reached verdict concluding a case that drew national attention, Jay Cicinelli on Monday was acquitted by a Santa Ana jury of charges of involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.
On Tuesday, he told the Orange County Register he wants to return to his job and plans to pursue legal means to do so.
“I was wrongfully terminated. How do you argue with a jury of 12 who all agree on the same thing?” Cicinelli told the newspaper. “They sat through the whole trial and heard all the facts.”
The former police corporal had been charged alongside ex-Officer Manuel Ramos, who was acquitted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.
Both officers were terminated by the Fullerton Police Department after Thomas’ death, which was caused by asphyxia due to chest compression and injuries to the head and chest during the struggle on July 5, 2011, according to a coroner’s report.
Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man diagnosed with schizophrenia, died five days after the altercation without having regained consciousness.
Attorneys for Cicinelli and Ramos had argued the men were doing their jobs, as trained, in the course of the altercation, and that Thomas had struggled with the officers. Cicinelli’s training officer had also testified that the men’s tactics were within department guidelines.
Cicinelli had arrived on the scene at the Fullerton Transportation Center after Ramos and another officer were already holding Thomas down. Video and audio recordings of the scene — played for the jury and repeatedly by news media — showed Thomas pleading for his life and calling for his father.
Cicinelli was accused of repeatedly using the butt of his Taser to beat Thomas’ face, which he described in a recording from the scene as “smashing his face to hell.”
Cicinelli told the Orange County Register he understands the anger of Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas, a former sheriff’s deputy.
Ron Thomas on Tuesday said he hopes a federal investigation results in civil rights charges against the officers, and he was continuing to pursue a civil lawsuit against the city.
“I understand where he is coming from,” Cicinelli said, according to The Register. “I’m a father.”
Michael Schwartz, Cicinelli’s attorney, described his client recently saving a man from choking on a piece of pizza.
“Jay jumped up and Jay was the one with the Heimlich maneuver,” Schwartz said. “He reacts appropriately. He’s a Johnny-on-the-spot to help people.”
The process to get Cicinelli his position again was begun before the trial, but it was essentially on hold pending the outcome of the court case, said another of his attorneys, Zachery Lopes.
Cicinelli’s identity is very much wrapped up in being a police officer, Schwartz said, but it will not be simple for him to return to the Fullerton Police Department.
“The reality is it’s a pretty big uphill battle,” Schwartz said.
KTLA’s Chip Yost contributed to this article.