Awful News Out of Orange County California

Ron Thomas and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas (photo by the Gaurdian)In 2011, two Fullerton California police officers beat to death a mentally ill homeless man named Kelly Thomas, 37.  The two officers were acquitted of all charges on Monday January 13 in an Orange County court room.  Thomas's mother was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, "Part of me died that night...They got away with it."  Kelly's father, Ron, was a retired police officer who was devestated by his son's death especially with the release of the security videotape from a nearby building of the encounter with the police on that July evening.  (It is on the internet, but we will not provide a link. It is too gruesome to watch).

The jury deliberated for eight hours after the three week trial and acquitted the two officers on second degree murder charges for Officer Manual Ramos as well as involuntary manslaughter charges.  Officer Jay Cicinelli was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in the criminal trial.  Thomas was beaten at the bus depot in Fullerton after he did not comply with former officer Ramos demand to sit on the curb.  The ten minute confrontation between the heavily armed police officers and the unarmed Thomas left him bloodied with broken bones and his face unrecognizable.  He was hit with a baton, tasered four times, punched, hit in the face with the butt of the Taser, pinned to the ground and kneed in the head.   Ramos put on latex gloves before the attack and told Thomas that he was going to beat him.  Thomas pled for his life during the attack, apologized, and then cried and called for his dad's help repeatedly.  All this was caught on tape and witnessed by numerous onlookers.   The pictures of Kelly Thomas in the hospital after his beating are gruesome and were posted on the internet.  Thomas died in the hospital five days later. 

With all this evidence, a jury decided that these two officers were not guilty of the charges.  The lawyers representing the officers focused on Thomas's previous acts of aggression that were a part of his mental illness.   They also claimed that Thomas kept fighting and the officers had to call for backup five times.  The videotape showed that the officers continued the beating even after Thomas went limp.  The defense team stressed that the officers were only doing their jobs.  After the verdict was announced the district attorney dismissed the charges against the third officer who was waiting trial on lesser charges.  

The family could now file a civil case against the officers for wrongful death and civil rights violations.  The FBI could re-open their investigation, which was stopped when the county prosecutor filed charges.   We are going to ask national mental health and homeless groups to push Attorney General Eric Holder to open a civil rights investigation into this case.  It is unbelievable that anyone viewing the disturbing video tape could not conclude that these officers prepared for an assault on Kelly Thomas and did not stop his beating until he had sustained injuries that led to his death.  We are all shocked that there will be no criminal charges against these police officers. 

Brian Davis

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