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Friday, May 11, 2012

Police Officers to Stand Trial in Death of Homeless Man

Fullerton police officers to stand trial in death of homeless man 
The New York Daily News by Nina Mandell  -  May 10, 2012
Kelly Thomas was beaten and shocked by police before his death in 2011-  five days after the incident, which was caught on camera

Two California police officers will stand trial on charges relating to the death of a homeless man whose brutal beating was caught on camera, a judge ruled Wednesday. The ruling came after an emotional hearing where prosecutors showed a video of Fullerton officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli beating Kelly Thomas with their batons, kicking him and Tasering him on the street. The video begins with Ramos asking Thomas to put his hands on his knees and becoming increasingly frustrated when he doesn't comply. At one point, he put on latex gloves and told Thomas, "See these fists? They're getting ready to f— you up, if you don't f—ing start listening." The confrontation escalated into a more than nine-minute beating, with Thomas screaming that he couldn't breathe, apologizing, and yelling for his father. When they were finished, Thomas, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, was lying in a pool of blood. He died a few days later in a California hospital. Ramos, 38, could be the first police officer in modern Orange County history to be tried for murder for on-duty actions, the Los Angeles Times reported. Cicinelli, 40, will be tried for involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force. Four other officers who came to the scene could also be charged in the case, the L.A. Times reported Ramos faces life in prison if convicted and Cicinelli could get up to four years if convicted. Both officers pleaded not guilty. "I'm overwhelmed. In this war we've been fighting this is a new battle," said Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, a former Orange County Sheriff. "But we got a victory today." Kelly Thomas' death sparked massive protests in Fullerton and a look into how mentally ill people are treated by police. Attorneys for the police officers have questioned if it was actually the medical treatment that resulted in Kelly Thomas' death — not the beating. Ramos' defense attorney, John Barnett, said that Thomas was uncooperative and prosecutors skipped over key parts of the argument leading to the beating and that they had no knowledge of Thomas' mental illness. He also argued that it took multiple officers to hold him down. But, according to ABC News, Ron Thomas told reporters, "You have 1,500 pounds of trained cop on my one little son, but they have to bring this out like they were just so overpowered by this brute to make themselves look innocent and that they're the victims." The officers had been investigating a call that came in of a homeless man looking into car windows and tugging on door handles.

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