By now everyone is at least casually familiar with the personage of FPD cop Joe Wolfe, who along with Manny Ramos, happened to be the first to confront the homeless schizophrenic man, Kelly Thomas, in the Fullerton Transportation Center, on the sultry night of July 5th, 2011.
Allegedly responding to a call claiming somebody was breaking into cars, Wolfe and Ramos were near enough to get to the scene first. Some folks think this was not a coincidence.
According to the DA, Wolfe searched Thomas’ backpack at the rear of a patrol car as Ramos hovered over Thomas around front – a mere 10-15 feet away. The fact that this implausibly lengthy “search” took place during Ramos’ physical and verbal intimidation of Kelly gave the DA his justification for Wolfe’s subsequent behavior.
What happened next (according to the DA) is that Kelly, who finally realized he was being queued up for an ass kicking one way or another, got up, and backed away from Ramos, hands and palms up; Ramos had pulled out his baton. And who was there to meet Thomas with drawn night stick, having circled around behind the patrol car and who suddenly seemed very much aware of what was going on?
Right. Officer Joe Wolfe.
This corpulent cop, who was so thoroughly engrossed in picking through Thomas’ scant belongings that he supposedly had no knowledge of what was happening a few feet away, suddenly became as nimble as Nijinski, allegedly slamming Kelly in the leg with his night stick, and with Ramos, tackling Thomas. As Ramos held Thomas by the neck and punched him, Wolfe was on top too, kicking and punching as the beat down and the pile on began.
We are asked (by the DA) to believe that Wolfe was completely unaware of Ramos verbally threatening Thomas, and donning his latex gloves; and that he was merely coming to Ramos’ rescue. Could it have happened that way? I guess so, but it really strains credulity to believe that Wolfe was not aware of the provacative behavior of Ramos, even if there were no pre-arranged set up of Kelly involved. And the DA provided no credible explanation for the sheer violence of his physical assault: we are left with the inevitable conclusion that Wolfe meant to do Kelly great bodily harm.
How many times did Wolfe hit Thomas before the one-eyed cop Jay Cicinelli arrived on the scene to finish him off? Only those privileged cops (and city councilmen) who have seen the video know.
Many questions remain unanswered about the role of Mr. Wolfe on the night in question, and despite the DA’s effort to absolve Wolfe of complicity in the killing, many observers, including me, remain unconvinced.
One thing we do know for sure: Joe Wolfe joins an ever growing list of Fullerton cops who can’t be let loose on the street or trusted to testify in court. He has been on paid leave since August. And until the Gennaco report on the Thomas killing comes out, there he will stay.