Can you find the Manuel Ramos Arrest?

Can you find the Manuel Ramos Arrest?

Former Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos, who was tried and acquitted for second degree murder in the 2011 beating death of Kelly Thomas, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence three weeks ago, but no news circulated about it until late this week. Police were called to an address on W. Oak Ave. in Fullerton to investigate a disturbance on July 16. Mr. Ramos was booked, and released on $ 10,000.00 bail, according to ABC News. The story first came to light on August 2, when an unnamed source informed Fullerton activist Stephen Baxter about the July arrest. Other local activists searched for records and alerted the media, eventually resulting in ABC and other media outlets covering the story.

Ron Thomas, father of the slain Kelly, thinks that the FPD were silent about the arrest because his civil suit over his son’s death is scheduled to begin next month. “They want it as quiet as possible…Ramos being arrested isn’t going to make him look good,” he tells Gabriel San Román of the OC Weekly in a story this morning.

Ron Thomas may be right, especially if we consider the contrast between the three week delay in reporting the arrest of Manual Ramos with the next day coverage of former state Assemblyman Chris Norby’s arrest for domestic violence on March 11, 2014. Mr. Norby was never charged with any crimes, and later divorced his wife, who was alleged to have battered him, injuring his eye. The arrest came during an election year amid speculation that he might be considering a run for Fullerton City Council. By any objective measure, the negative publicity following the arrest damaged his chances of succeeding in such a campaign.

During his 18 previous years on the Fullerton City Council, 7 years as OC Supervisor, and 3 years in the California State Assembly, Chris Norby was known as a critic of public employee unions, who lined up on the side of his opponent Sharon Quirk-Silva in 2012, helping to defeat him. In the State Assembly he authored a bill aimed at reforming asset seizure laws, which had been a boon to police departments throughout the state. He had also expressed frustration with the limits placed on reporting about problem officers included in the Peace Officers Bill of Rights. The prospect of his return to the Fullerton City Council would not have been a welcome one for the Fullerton Police Department, who have enjoyed a reliable three member majority of supporters in the form of Doug Chaffee, Jan Flory, and Jennifer Fitzgerald since November, 2012.

A year later, when the dust had settled, Chris Norby reflected upon his arrest in an April 28, 2015 letter to the Voice of OC. He noted in the letter that “During Family Court civil hearing, two independent witnesses testified personally of the physical abuse I had suffered. There were none against me.

One has to wonder, just how did the media find out so quickly about the arrest of Chris Norby, while the arrest of Manuel Ramos on the same charge (they even had the same bail amount of $10,000) went undetected by reporters for three weeks? The OC Register first reported about Chris Norby on March 12, less than 24 hours after his arrestThe LA Times had a story up by March 13. The Fullerton News Tribune, owned and published every Thursday by the OC Register, includes a weekly crime feature called The Blotter, showing selected arrests throughout the city. The July 23 edition lists two separate July 16 assaults for addresses on W. Malvern and W. Commonwealth, but nothing on W. Oak, the site of the Manual Ramos arrest. Not until August 6, did the OC Register finally pick up on the story.

Did someone tip off the press about the Chris Norby arrest last year, while laying low about the arrest of Manuel Ramos last month?

Terence Love, owner.

Terence Love, owner.

In 1994 an enterprising jazz fan named Terence Love opened Steamers Jazz Cafe in downtown Fullerton. Serving coffee to local students and music fans, it quickly earned a reputation as a music venue that respected both musicians and their audience, where live jazz could be heard every night, somehow, in Orange County.

In a 1998 story about the club, the Los Angeles Times called Fullerton’s downtown “a neighborhood that goes dark before the sky does.” Times changed soon enough with the adoption of a Restaurant Overlay District that removed the responsibility of new restaurants to provide parking for patrons. Suddenly it became easier to open a restaurant or a bar, and the rush was on. With a seemingly endless supply of liquor licenses, rents increased. Soon Steamer’s neighbors went from being pawn shops, antiquarian bookshops and sporting goods stores to delicatessens, bars, and other eateries, some of them featuring live bands themselves.

Steamers, however, went on being what it had always been, a cool, classy refuge where Poncho Sanchez, Diana Krall, and other luminaries could play in a venue dedicated to their art in front of fans who couldn’t believe they were seeing such acts in an intimate club setting anywhere, let alone in Fullerton. College ensembles and other young musicians were also welcome to play in front of its luxurious red curtain backdrop, enjoying the chance to hone their craft before live audiences. The club’s location had been chosen for its proximity to Fullerton College, where a strong jazz program existed, and owner Terence Love was supportive of young musicians throughout the club’s lifetime.


Local favorite Nancy Sanchez

Steamers was a host venue for Ragfest’s memorable productions by pianist and songster Brad Kay, who filled the stage with his Syncopating Songbirds. Everyone had their favorite band or singer, from Hedgehog Swing, to Nancy Sanchez, to Ron Eschete to Kristin Korb to Barbara Morrison to Gina Saputo. Strolling down Commonwealth Ave. at night, it was always tempting to drop into the doorway without thinking too much about it. No matter how much I got used to the slender room with the cafe chairs, the long bar and the high ceiling, the black and white photographs of jazz luminaries that lined the walls, I always felt lucky to be there.

Steamers eventually began serving alcohol—including fine craft cocktails—but it didn’t turn them into just another bar on the circuit downtown. They were always a music club that also served food and drinks, never just a bar with live bands. Now it is the fate of Steamers to itself become another beer hall, as owner Terence Love retires the business on July 30, and moves on from being the most unlikely of professions, the jazz impresario in North Orange County for a club that gained fame and respect far beyond the borders of our city.

Nothing lasts forever, but we can hope that the memory of Steamers will not fade away so fast, and that the legacy of inspiring musical experiences and the respect paid to those who create them will find a new home somewhere else in Downtown Fullerton someday soon…


Last week Fullerton’s contracted City Attorney Dick Jones announced during the Closed Session Report of a City Council meeting that financial settlements had been reached in two legal cases against the City of Fullerton.  The Rag has been waiting for some news about the  first case, Castaneda vs. the City of Fullerton, since we wrote about it last September.

New Lawsuit Against Fullerton Police Department Alleges Forcible Sex by Detective in 2013, September 16, 2014.

The suit alleged that a now former Fullerton Police Detective named Ronald Bair had demanded sexual favors from a woman in exchange for favorable testimony in her child custody case. The details of the case were very disturbing. The plaintiff reportedly felt compelled to comply with demands for sex by Det. Bair, who had investigated a breach of restraining order against her, because he had also offered to testify on her behalf in her child custody case. She later filed an anonymous complaint with the FPD, but claimed that FPD officers mishandled it by inappropriately informing Det. Bair:

“Shortly thereafter, detective RONALD BAIR called the plaintiff and threatened her and said that she was going to die.  It was obvious that he had been told, by the other defendants, about her ‘anonymous’ complaint about his conduct.  He told the plaintiff that he knew that she had a court hearing coming up and that the plaintiff would never see my daughter again.  He told the plaintiff that his police buddies would come after her.”

With a four vote majority, and one abstention, the Fullerton City Council agreed to pay the plaintiff $ 550,000.00. No details were offered about why one member of the Council chose to abstain from the vote, and since it occurred in Closed Session, there are no notes available to public to explain this strange action by a City Council member in a decision that involved over half a million dollars.

On July 23 the OC Register published a story about the case, written by reporter Lou Ponsi.

Fullerton is paying $550,000 to settle lawsuit involving cop accused of sex-for-testimony trade

In the article, Fullerton City Manager Joe Felz makes the claim that the “encounters” between Det. Bair and the plaintiff were “consensual,” and occurred while he was “off-duty.” Off duty or not, does it seem like a good idea for a police detective to be having sex with a crime victim whose case he had investigated and for whom he has provided testimony in a child custody case?

Mr. Ponsi then reports:

‘The police “fully investigated” Castaneda’s accusations against the former detective and then submitted a report to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the city manager said.’ And then, ‘The District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges because of insufficient evidence…’

Well, there you have it. The police, who are alleged to have improperly informed a detective about a serious complaint made against him, filed their own report with the DA, who couldn’t find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

In the next paragraph of the Register’s report, Mr. Felz first states that the ‘“alleged inappropriate relationship” between Castaneda and Bair involved “two mutually consenting adults,” before crossing an ocean sized gap in logic behind settling a case for over half a million dollars to “to minimize legal expenses.”

If there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and the relationship was consensual, why is the city afraid to continue fighting the civil suit? Sure, lawyers cost money, and in the real world cities settle lawsuits to save taxpayers money all the time, but this time there is a $ 550,000.00 payout. That’s a large sum of money for what is effectively claimed to have been a non-issue.

$ 550,000.00 should also be more than enough to fund a Citizen’s Independent Police Commission. As we noted last September, an oversight board would have received the plaintiff’s disturbing complaints when they were filed, and investigated any alleged mishandling of it. Just having such a commission in place might alone discourage such behavior. Instead, a majority of the Fullerton City Council chose a periodic and incomplete independent audit model, citing the alleged cost of commission investigations.

(The Police Oversight Proposal Committee’s plan for an independent oversight commission can be found at this link:

As it now stands, we have no independent civilian oversight, and we have to pay over half a million dollars to settle a lawsuit over acts between a crime victim and a Fullerton Police Detective the City Manager claims were consensual. I wonder how the members of the City Council whose campaigns were backed by the police union, and later voted against a Civilian Police Commission, will explain that one to the people of Fullerton?

At press time Police Chief Dan Hughes has yet to weigh in publicly on the case, and it doesn’t seem to have made Behind the Badge’s Fullerton page…


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