Ex-Fullerton police officer charged in Kelly Thomas case helps rescue choking man at Whittier pizza parlor

WHITTIER — A former Fullerton police officer charged in connection with the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man was involved in the rescue of a choking diner at a Whittier pizza parlor over the weekend, according to witnesses and officials.
Ex-Fullerton Police Department corporal Jay Cicinelli, along with another man, sprung into action to help a man who was choking on a piece of pizza Sunday at That’s Amore, 11223, First Avenue in Whittier, according to the 43-year-old choking victim, Luis Vargas of La Mirada.
“Had I not gotten the help of these two men, honestly, I think I would have been done,” Vargas said. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my entire life.”
Vargas was dining at the restaurant with Cicinelli and other parents and coaches from a local little league when he began to choke. The team was celebrating a tournament victory.
“We were laughing. Before I knew it, I had that piece of pizza stuck in my throat,” Vargas said. “Honestly, I thought I was done. I did not see it getting dislodged.”
But Cicinelli immediately sprung into action, team manager Dan Garcia said.
“Cicinelli asked him, ‘can you breathe?’ He shook his head ‘no.’ He asked, ‘Do you need the Heimlich?’ He shook his head ‘yes.’”
Cicinelli administered nine to ten thrusts to Vargas’ abdomen, before another team parent, Rich Murphy, also joined in in performing the Heimlich maneuver on the choking man, who was turning blue.”
“All of a sudden, I could breathe again,” Vargas said.
Vargas said his 10-year-old son and wife witnessed his near choking and rescue.
Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Miguel Ornelas said paramedics responded to the restaurant, but quickly cleared the scene after determining their aid was no longer needed.
Vargas said he was feeling better Wednesday. “My lungs are still sore,” he said. “Every time I eat, I think about it.”
Cicinelli is one of three former Fullerton police officer facing criminal charges in connection with the fatal July 7, 2011 beating of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas. The former officers are free on bail pending trial.
Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in connection with the case, according to Orange County District Attorney’s officials. Co-defendant and former officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in connection with Thomas’ death.
Another former officer, Joseph Wolfe, has been charged separately with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in the case.

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