Fullerton Police officer Ben Lira appeared on KFI this afternoon and accused Acting Chief Dan Hughes of a cover up in the immediate aftermath of the Kelly Thomas killing.
Lira, a 17-year veteran of the city's embattled force, has been on paid leave since circulating an email critical of Capt. Hughes.
“I don't anticipate being there much longer,” he told show host Bill Carroll.
Though he wasn't at the scene the night the homeless Thomas was savagely beaten by four officers near the Slidebar Rock and Roll Kitchen, Lira said Hughes acted improperly when he told the officers they had done nothing wrong and ordered them to return to the station, view the video of the beating and write their reports. As the ranking officer in charge of patrol, Hughes should have notified the Orange County District Attorney's office immediately, Lira said.
Lira also added that one of the officers involved, Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, who was preparing to take the Sergeant's exam, requested an attorney. But Hughes told him he didn't need one.
Public outrage over the July 2011 beating reached fevered levels after Fullerton blogger Tony Bushala published an image of an unconcious Thomas, his head swollen and bloody, in a hospital bed.
Many continue to feel the officers illegally beat and murdered Thomas, then attempted to cover it up. But Lira, who helped bail officer Manuel Ramos, charged with second degree murder for his role in the beating, out of jail, said any cover up was orchestrated by Hughes.
“The officers and administrators are two different people,” Lira said. The officers didn't try to cover up anything.”
“So the brass tried to cover it up?” Carroll asked.
“Well, yeah,” Lira replied.
Lear also described Hughes as an ambitious climber whose career goals have trumped public safety.
“There's a lot of good people who work there,” Lira said. “It's unfortunate that the management there has made the poor decisions they have.”
A call to police spokesman Sgt. Jeff Stuart wasn't immediately returned.