Officers Ordered to Stand Trial In Beating Death of Homeless Man

Photo by Gina Ferazzi for the Los Angeles Times.

A year long investigation into the beating death of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, has culminated into two Fullerton police officers being ordered to stand trial by an Orange County Superior judge.

Officer Manuel Ramos, 38, faces charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, 40, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force. Ramos faces 15 years to life in prison. Cicinelli faces a four-year sentence.

Although their defense attorneys suggested emergency medical workers — not the police officers — caused Thomas’ death by failing to provide prompt care, Judge Walter Schwarm determined after a three-day preliminary hearing that there is enough probable cause for the case to go to trial.

After the judge’s decision, defense attorney John Barnett made the statement on behalf of Ramos. Barnett insisted that despite today’s decision, Ramos won’t face a murder trial — though he declined to elaborate.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas has said he will fight any challenges to have the case dismissed. “This case is going to trial,” Rackauckas said.

“This is another victory for my son,” his Kelly’s father Ron Thomas said, “but this is another battle now in this war we have been fighting.” “I won’t say I am happy,” he said outside the courtroom. The war won’t be over until the officers are convicted, he said. Los Angeles Times, 9 May 2012.

Video and audio recordings of the beating show Thomas apologizing and crying for his father. According to the county pathologist, Thomas died of “chest compression and blood from his facial wounds.”

Ron Thomas has become an advocate for justice in the case of his son’s death.

The case has brought national focus on how police treat homeless populations who are mentally ill.