Two Fullerton Officers To Face Felony Charges in Beating Death of Kelly Thomas
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced Wednesday morning that two officers will face felony charges in the death of Kelly Thomas. Thomas, 37, was brutally beaten by six Fullerton Police officers and died several days later from his severe injuries.
"The public has been crying for justice for Kelly," said Rackauckas in his opening remarks this morning at a Santa Ana press conference. Members of the Thomas family, including Kelly's outspoken father, Ron, were not permitted to attend today.
"In Orange County we generally trust our law enforcement [...] We must do everything that we can to ensure that we protect this trust, including, if necessary, prosecuting police officers who violate the law."
Rackauckas says an 11-week investigation took place, during which time the DA's office reviewed all manner of evidence, including video recordings from cell phones, surveillance video from the transit center, reports from 151 witnesses, police reports, physical evidence, medical reports, and the coroner's report.
Officer Manuel Ramos will be charged with one felony count of second degree murder and one felony count of involuntary manslaughter. Rackauckas says Ramos "set in motion the events that led to the death of Kelly Thomas." He went on to describe the events that took place on that fateful July night, calling Ramos' actions as being "reckless" and "in conscious disregard to human life."
Ramos' behavior during the confrontation with Thomas as described by Rackauckas was dramatically out of line with police protocol. Rackauckas says Ramos knew Thomas, and that Thomas' behavior clearly indicated he did not have full control of his mental faculties.
"We're going to eff you up," Rackauckas says Ramos announced to Thomas, signaling a violent beating to come. The DA says he believes Ramos knew he was putting Thomas' life in danger, and that he was acting deliberately to hurt him badly.
If convicted, Ramos faces a sentence of 15 year to life in state prison.
Additionally, Crpl. Jay Cicinelli faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.
Rackaukas revealed the official cause of death in the case as "mechanical compression of the thorax," which made it impossible for oxygen to travel to Thomas' brain. The other physical injuries Thomas sustained also contributed to his death.
Outside the news conference, protesters and supporters shouted and chanted after the announcement. Ron Thomas said he was pleased with the DA's remarks and decision to pursue a murder charge against Ramos.
"The biggest shame about this case is that it shouldn't have happened," remarked Rackauckas.