A jury has acquitted two California police officers accused of brutally beating a schizophrenic homeless man to death.
Manuel Ramos, 39, and Jay Cicinelli, 41, were cleared Monday of all charges in the July 2011 beating death of Kelly Thomas. The two cops were charged with hitting the homeless man with a baton and using a stun gun in a clash that subsequently left Thomas in a coma; he died five days later, reported The Los Angeles Times.
A screen grab of security footage that shows the beating unfold. (Image source: YouTube)
Ramos, who was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, and Cicinelli, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force under color of authority, were cleared after the jury took less than a full day to deliberate on a case that has stunned and divided the Fullerton, Calif., community.
Following the verdict, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckus announced that charges against a third officer, Joseph Wolfe, will now also be dropped, according to The Associated Press.
Kelly Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, expressed his dismay with the acquittal, noting that he believes justice was not served and suggesting that federal officials should look into the matter, the Times reported.
"Just horrified. He got away with murdering my son, Thomas' mother, Cathy, said following the case's emotional conclusion.
Others were also surprised, as spectators reportedly gasped when the verdict was read.
Image source: Ron Thomas
A spokeswoman for the FBI said that the federal government will assess the matter.
"With the conclusion of the state court trial, investigators will examine the evidence and testimony to determine whether further investigation is warranted at the federal level," Laura Eimiller told the AP.
The two opposing sides viewed the incident, which was captured on video, very differently.
While prosecutors alleged that Ramos and Cicinelli violently beat Thomas, who can be heard on tape pleading for help, the defense argued that the homeless man was in need of restraint.
The following footage doesn't show the beating, but audio of the incident can be heard; Thomas' pleas are audible (warning: disturbing content and language):
TheBlaze first covered the story just days after Thomas' death. As we noted at the time, a local student caught some raw footage of police officers utilizing a Taser to subdue Thomas after he purportedly resisted arrest. The homeless man caught the attention of police offers after someone reported that a man was jiggling the handles of car doors parked at the local bus station.
At the time of the incident, witness Mark Turgeon told Gawker that Thomas was not resisting arrest."
"They kept beating him and Tasering him. I could hear zapping, and he wasn’t even moving," Turgeon said. "He had one arm in front of him like this, he wasn’t resisting. And they kept telling him, ‘He’s resisting, quit resisting,’ and he wasn’t resisting."
A startling, 33-minute video later emerged that shows the officers approaching Thomas, beating him and then seemingly laying on top of him. Throughout the ordeal, he can be heard screaming "help me."
Additionally, more than once, Thomas told the officers that he could not breathe (his death certificate reportedly ruled his death a homicide and proclaimed that he died from "mechanical chest compression with blunt cranial-facial injuries sustained during physical altercation with law enforcement").
Watch that video below. The clash begins around the 15:30 mark (caution: extremely graphic and disturbing; strong language):
At least one of the officers had previously indicated that Thomas was uncontrollable during the clash.
Cicinelli at one point reportedly described the scenario as follows: "We ran out of options so I got the end of my Taser and I probably ... I just start smashing his face to hell. He was on something. Cause the three of us couldn't even control him."
Several members of Thomas' family did testify that he had been violent in the past. His mother, Cathy Thomas, said her son had choked her during an argument.
(H/T: The Los Angeles Times)
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