An attorney for one of two Fullerton police officers accused of beating Kelly Thomas to death at a bus depot in July said after a pre-trial hearing Friday that his client "used only that force that was necessary" to restain the 37-year-old man.
Thomas' father, Ron, also met with reporters outside the courtroom. Members of "Kelly's Army" -- a group that rallied for an investigation into the July 5 beating -- stood behind him.
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"That's his job," Thomas said of the defense claims. "I don't believe for a minute what he's saying."
Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Corporal Jay Cicinell faces an involuntary manslaughter charge and a charge of use of excessive force.
Both men were in court Friday for a pre-trial hearing. A preliminary examination date was set for March 28.
Defense attorney John D. Barnett said Friday there is no factual basis on which to base the charges against Ramos.
"My client confronted a non-compliant suspect," said Barnett. "My client used only that force that was necessary to seek to restrain Kelly Thomas. That's all he did. That cannot be a crime, much less murder."
Witness accounts, audio recorded on digital recorders worn by the officers and video from the Fullerton bus terminal were used to investigate the case, which began with a report of someone attempting to break into vehicles at the depot. Ramos confronted Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man who suffered from mental illness, setting in motion a chain of events that led to Thomas' death, according to the district attorney.
After responding to the report, Ramos allegedly showed Thomas his fists and said, "Now see my fists? They are getting ready to 'F' you up."
"Kelly posed no threat," Thomas said. "He stood up, his palms out, literally ran for his life."
The five responding officers included Cicinelli. Four other officers were not charged.
Ultimately, Thomas died five days after the confrontation because of the force of the officers' compression on his chest, the DA said. The pressure made it impossible to breathe, according to the DA's report.
Last week, Thomas' mother filed a lawsuit in an effort to view records involved in the investigation. Those items include surveillance video, audio recordings and witness statements.
Authorities have said releasing the items could compromise the criminal case against the two officers.
The FBI has opened a parallel investigation into whether the officers violated Thomas' civil rights. Fullerton City Council members have also hired an independent investigator to do an internal review of the arrest. The case led to outrage expressed at several city council meetings and a recall effort.
Cicinelli and Ramos are on unpaid administrative leave.