The Orange County District Attorney's Office is looking for witnesses to the incident between Fullerton police and Thomas that led to his death.
If you have any information about this incident, please call Investigator Stan Berry at (714) 347-8813.
EMAIL the THOMAS FAMILY - FreeSprit74@aol.com
SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 37-year-old Fullerton police officer facing homicide charges in the death of a schizophrenic homeless man pleaded not guilty today, and a judge rejected his bid to lower his $1 million bail.
Officer Manuel Ramos was charged last week with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, 39, with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force in the death of Kelly Thomas, 37, who died after a violent confrontation with six officers responding to reports of car burglaries at the Fullerton Transportation Center on July 5.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced the felony charges Thursday. The other four officers involved in Thomas's arrest will not face criminal charges. All six officers are on administrative leave.
Ramos and Cicinelli turned themselves in after the charges were announced and appeared in a downtown Santa Ana courtroom that afternoon. Cicinelli pleaded not guilty, but Ramos' arraignment was postponed until this morning, when a bail-review hearing also was held, climaxing with a ruling that the bail amount would not be reduced at this time.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Erick Larsh set bail at $1 million for Ramos and $25,000 for Cicinelli and ordered them to surrender their weapons. Cicinelli, who posted bail Wednesday, is due back in court Nov. 4. Ramos has been incarcerated at the Intake Release Center in Santa Ana, said sheriff's Lt. Mike Peters.
Rackauckas said Ramos, a 10-year Fullerton Police Department veteran, faces up to 15 years to life in prison if convicted. Cicinelli, who left the Los Angeles Police Department on disability after losing an eye in a South L.A. shooting in 1996 and who has been a Fullerton officer 12 years, faces up to four years in prison.
Rackauckas said Ramos threatened Thomas during the arrest, put on latex gloves and told the man, ``Now see my fists? They are getting ready to f--- you up." Officers then struck Thomas' head and body as he cried out for his father and told them, ``I'm sorry."
``That declaration was the turning point,'' the district attorney said. ``That was the defining moment. Ramos was telling Kelly Thomas at that moment that this encounter had changed. That it went from a fairly routine police investigation, a fairly routine police detention, to an impending beating by an angry police officer.''
Cicinelli kneed Thomas twice in the head and used his Taser on the man four times, Rackauckas said, adding that the corporal also hit Thomas in the face with the Taser eight times.
``From what's visible on the videotape, Kelly Thomas appeared to be acting in self-defense, in pain and in a state of panic,'' the district attorney said. ``His numerous pleas of `I'm sorry,' `I can't breathe,' `Help,' `Dad,' all to no avail.
``Screams, loud screams, didn't help,'' Rackauckas said. ``Kelly Thomas not responding when the blows to his face occurred -- no help -- (nor) a growing pool of blood as Kelly Thomas became unresponsive.''
Ultimately, Thomas died because of the force of the officers on his chest, which made it impossible to breathe, Rackauckas said. He lost consciousness, slipped into a coma and died when he was taken off life-support five days later.
Ramos' attorney, John D. Barnett, said his client ``is not guilty of murder, manslaughter or any other crime'' and was only trying to ``de-escalate'' the situation when he allegedly shook his fists at Thomas.
The FBI has opened a parallel investigation into whether the officers violated Thomas' civil rights and Fullerton City Council members have hired an independent investigator to do an internal review of the arrest.
Ramos surrendered to district attorney's investigators last Wednesday shortly before Rackauckas announced in a press conference attended by about 200 reporters, prosecutors and others that Ramos had been charged with the second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for his role in Thomas' death.
Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man with a long history of schizophrenia, was beaten and suffocated on July 5 after a scuffle with six policemen near the Fullerton Transportation Center. The 30-minute skirmish was witnessed by several people and captured on surveillance video.
Rackauckas said he made the decision to charge Ramos with murder after he scrutinized evidence gathered by his investigators, who interviewed 151 witnesses, gathered medical records and autopsy results and police reports submitted by the six officers at the scene. He also analyzed the 30-minute video from the bus depot and cell phone videos taken by two witnesses. The D.A. said the totality of the evidence convinced him that Ramos, a 10-year-veteran of the Fullerton Department, "set in motion the events that led to Kelly Thomas' death" by first verbally sparring with the mentally ill man, and then threatening to beat him up.
Ramos snapped on a pair of Latex gloves, leaned over Thomas in menacing manner and made two fists, Rackauckas said, before telling the bewildered homeless man "Now, see my fists? ... They are getting ready to f- you up." That declaration, Rackauckas said, "was a turning point...a defining moment" that led to the beating that resulted in Thomas death."
During the next ten minutes, Rackauckas said, Thomas was tackled, hit with a baton, pinned to the ground, punched repeatedly in the ribs, kneed in the head, Tasered four times and then struck in the face with the Taser device eight times. Ramos faces a potential sentence of 15-years to life if convicted of second-degree murder. A jury could also find him guilty of lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
Fullerton Police Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, 39, a 12-year veteran of the Fullerton police force, was charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force under color of authority for his role in helping subdue Thomas. Rackauckas said Cicinelli fired his Taser four times into Thomas, and then smashed him in the faces eight times with the butt of his Taser after Thomas became non-responsive.