Officer in Kelly Thomas Beating Made "Declaration of Violence:" DA - NBC Southern California

Coverage of the trial involving two ex-police officers charged in the death of a homeless man

Officer in Kelly Thomas Beating Made "Declaration of Violence:" DA

Two officers are charged in connection with the July 5 beating death of Kelly Thomas



    Kelly Thomas Case

    Two Fullerton Police officers charged in the death of Kelly Thomas. (Published Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011)

    Officer Manuel Ramos made a "declaration of violence" and set in motion a chain of events July 5 that led to the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, according to the Orange County District Attorney.

    Timeline: Kelly Thomas Case | DA Announces Charges (PDF) | Remarks by OCDA (PDF)

    Ramos will face second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Thomas, who died five days after the altercation with Ramos and five other officers at a Fullerton bus depot. Ramos faces up to life in prison, if convicted.

    Officer Jay Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force. He was released on $25,000 bail.

    DA Announces Murder Charges in Thomas Case

    [LA] DA Announces Murder Charges in Thomas Case
    Two officers have been charged in the death of Kelly Thomas. Manuel Ramos, left, faces second-degree murder.
    (Published Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011)

    "I didn't expect this," Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father, said after Wednesday's announcement. "I am elated. This is really what I wanted, at least two of them."

    More: Ron Thomas Reacts

    The defendants surrendered Wednesday morning to Orange County authorities. Ramos' arraignment was postponed until Monday. Cicinelli pleaded not guilty Wednesday afternoon.

    Ron Thomas Commends Chief's Response

    [LA] Ron Thomas Commends Chief's Response
    Ron Thomas, the father of a homeless schizophrenic man who died days after an altercation with Fullerton police, says he is pleased with the acting police chief's public response to charges against two officers.
    (Published Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011)

    Bail was set at $1 million for Ramos. He is the first officer charged with murder in the history of the Fullerton police department.

    "The Fullerton Police Department will continue to cooperate with the Orange County District Attorney's office in their investigation," said acting Fullerton Chief of Police, Capt. Kevin Hamilton, at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

    Ron Thomas commended Hamilton's public response, saying the department and its chief -- who is currently on medical leave -- have not done enough in the case.

    "There was a huge development in the case today. Huge. What did [Hamilton] do? He had a press conference, so I commend him for that. He's trying to help rebuild the city of Fullerton's police department," said Ron Thomas.

    Ron Thomas said he will continue to fight for justice.

    "One gentlemen said it perfect today: 'One chapter has ended as another [begins].' Well, absolutely. This book is a long ways from being over, a longs ways. I'm still driving forward. I'm not slowing down," said Ron Thomas.

    Ramos (pictured, right) responded to a report of break-ins at the depot and detained Thomas -- a homeless man who suffered from mental illness -- by holding him down as other officers responded, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said. During the arrest, Ramos put on latex gloves, balled his fists and told Thomas, "See my fists? They're getting ready to 'F' you up," the DA said.

    "By making this declaration of violence, Ramos instilled in that victim fear, a reasonable fear for his life, that he was in danger and he was in danger by a police officer who wanted to 'F' him up with his fists,''  Rackauckas said. "That's when it went from a fairly routine investigation, a fairly routine police detention, to an impending beating by an angry police officer."

    Four other officers involved in the arrest were not charged.

    "The rest of the police officers who arrived at the scene arrived in response to the calls for assistance," Rackauckas said. "The evidence does not show any participation in an unlawful act on the part of these officers."

    The evidence includes video from cell phones, surveillance video from the bus depot, on-board bus videos, 151 witness account, police reports from all the officers involved, medical reports, an examination of physical evidence, such as batons and stun guns used in the beating, and audio recordings, Rackauckas said.

    The audio recordings included the officers' DARs -- digital audio recorders. Investigators said they synched the audio with video from the bus depot surveillance video.

    Interim Chief Kevin Hamilton and "Kelly's Army" Member Carmen Murvy react to charges

    After encountering Thomas at the bus depot, Ramos swung his baton at Thomas, but it was unclear whether he struck him, the DA said. The officer then chased Thomas, tackled him and punched him in the ribs, Rackauckas added.

    Cicinelli arrived later and kneed Thomas twice in the head, according to the DA. He used a stun gun four times on Thomas and struck him in the face eight times with the stun gun, Rackauckas said.

    Thomas tried to defend himself and cried out several times -- at one point, he screamed for his father -- during the altercation, Rackauckas said.

    "His numerous pleas of 'I'm sorry,' 'I can't breathe,' 'Help, Dad' (were) all to no avail," he said.

    Kelly Thomas was hospitalized after the beating, but removed from life support five days later. The six officers involved in the arrest were placed on administrative leave.

    The announcement came one day after another in a series of contentious Fullerton City Council meetings. Tuesday's meeting included a shouting match that involved the mayor and attendees.
    The case prompted outrage, protests, heated city council meetings and a recall effort in the weeks after Thomas' death. The FBI is investigating whether Kelly Thomas' civil rights were violated, and the city hired an independent investigator to conduct a review of the arrest.

    Thomas' father, a former sheriff's deputy who served in the Army, and mother filed a claim -- a precursor to a lawsuit -- against Fullerton.

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