The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 6      February 17, 2014

Jury acquits Calif. cops who beat
homeless man to death
(front page)
LOS ANGELES — On Jan. 13 former police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were acquitted in Fullerton, Calif., in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, who was homeless at the time and suffered from schizophrenia.

Ramos was found not guilty of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, and Cicinelli was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in the July 2011 beating of Thomas.

After the verdict, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office dropped involuntary manslaughter charges against Joe Wolfe, a former cop who was also involved in the killing of Thomas.

This is the first time in Orange County that a cop has been charged with murder for an incident while on the clock.

A 33-minute surveillance video shows up to six cops repeatedly shocking Thomas with a Taser stun gun and beating him in the head.

Thomas never regained consciousness and died five days later.

Protests led to the recall of three Fullerton City Council members, the departure of the police chief and charges against the three cops.

At the trial the coroner said Thomas died from asphyxiation caused by police piling on his chest.

Defense attorneys said Thomas suffered from a weakened heart as a result of methamphetamine abuse and that he was a violent person who had abused drugs and alcohol since the 10th grade.

Prosecution witness Dr. Matthew Budoff, a cardiologist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, testified that CT scans showed Thomas’ heart was healthy and tests measuring the acidity levels in his blood indicated he had been deprived of oxygen.

“The system failed Kelly Thomas,” said Steve Baxter. “They said, all things considered, they didn’t violate any policy or procedure when they beat him with a Taser, when they left him for dead in the street, when they mocked him, when they escalated the situation. None of that was against policy?”

“These peace officers were doing their jobs,” said defense attorney John Barnett during the trial. “They did what they were trained to do.”

“It’s like the jury said ‘go ahead, it’s all right, we’ve got your back,’” Robert Russell, a worker at Triumph Vought Aerostructures, said. “They Taser you and beat you with a billy club and tell you to stop resisting, to stop moving. How are you going to do that?”

Cicinelli and Ramos were terminated close to 10 months after being criminally charged by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

A day after the “not guilty” verdict, Cicinelli told the Orange County Register that he intends to get back on the force.  
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