Cops Not Guilty in Fatal Beating of Kelly Thomas
Kelly Thomas family photo via OC Weekly.
Two former Fullerton cops were found not guilty today of all charges in the fatal, 2011 beating of Kelly Thomas.
The victim's mother, Cathy Thomas, told reporters this afternoon, "They got away with murdering my son. It's not fair. I guess it's legal to go out and kill now. He was so innocent."
The beating, caught on tape, was so allegedly egregious that Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas tried the case himself:
Former officer Manuel Ramos had been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Ex-Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, who had once worked for the LAPD, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.
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Thomas was fatally beaten after police were called to a report of car break-ins in Fullerton on a night in July of 2011. Six officers ultimately subdued the schizophrenic homeless man, who ultimately died at a hospital.
Police say Thomas was being stopped for allegedly having discarded mail in his backpack.
He had been punched, kneed and tasered, though cops alleged he was fighting them. Security video seems to tell a different story.
See also: Kelly Thomas Beating Video: 'Dad, They're Killing Me.'
Father Ron Thomas said, "I hope the Department of Justice is going to step in" and pursue a federal Civil Rights case against the ex-cops.
[Added at 4:35 p.m.]: Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, issued this response to the verdicts:
Today's not guilty verdict in the criminal trial of Fullerton police officers Jay Cicinelli and Manuel Ramos, who were charged in the beating death of Kelly Thomas is disappointing, and demonstrates the need for civilian police review boards in Fullerton and elsewhere in Orange County. In instances where criminal charges are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but where an officer's action may still be unacceptable, civilian oversight provides an additional avenue for police accountability to local communities. Civilian review boards can be used to determine whether officers acted or violated department policy, or if stronger guidelines are needed. Moreover, such boards play an important role in strengthening trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. We hope that in the wake of this verdict, police departments will move swiftly to ensure that officers are trained in how to responsibly interact with persons suffering from severe mental illness, including the need to de-escalate conflicts and the inappropriateness of Taser use under such circumstances.
For complete coverage of the verdict, tune in to our sister site OC Weekly.
Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.
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