Two Fullerton police officers charged in the death of a homeless man made their first court appearance Wednesday afternoon, and one was set to be released on bail.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas took the unusual step of appearing in person for the arraignment of Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, who are charged in the death of Kelly Thomas, 37. Thomas' father, Ron, also spoke out at Rackauckas' request during the arraignment.
Cicinelli pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and the use of excessive force. He posted $25,000 bail and was slated to be released Wednesday. His next hearing is set Nov. 4.
Photos: Kelly Thomas' death
Ramos' arraignment on charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter was postponed until Monday, as his attorney is out of town. He remains in custody with bail set at $1 million.
The issue of bail will be revisited Monday. When asked if he opposed a bail reduction, Rackauckas called up Ron Thomas, who asked the judge not to reduce the bail amount because of the "horrific way" his son was killed. Cicinelli appeared in court in a two-piece suit and appeared calm, while Ramos wore a striped polo shirt. He was handcuffed and appeared nervous.
The judge ordered both officers to surrender their firearms when they are released from custody.
The court appearance came three hours after Rackauckas announced the charges at a dramatic news conference during which he gave a detailed and chilling narrative of the beating that resulted in Thomas' death.
Full coverage: Kelly Thomas' death
Rackauckas said Thomas begged for his life as Fullerton police officers beat him and Tasered him July 5.
Ramos put latex gloves on his hands and brandished a fist at Thomas. Then, Rackauckas said, the officer, in a "menacing" manner, threatened Thomas: "These fists are ready to F you up."
Scared and bleeding, Thomas begged for his life. No one listened, Rackauckas said.
"Kelly Thomas appeared to be acting in self-defense, in pain, in a state of panic. His numerous pleas of 'I'm sorry,' 'I can't breathe,' 'help,' 'Dad,' all to no avail," Rackauckas said. "Screams, loud screams, didn't help."
"Kelly Thomas was not responding when blows to his face occurred," Rackauckas said, adding, "That is not protecting and serving."
Ramos' attorney, John Barnett, said his client was simply doing his job under difficult conditions when he tried to restrain Thomas.
"Officer Ramos was confronted that evening with a noncompliant suspect with a history of violence," Barnett said. "Officer Ramos had the responsibility and the duty to detain, restrain and arrest him."
Barnett said the district attorney had taken Ramos' threats out of context.
"To characterize that as a justification for Kelly Thomas to leave betrays a complete lack of understanding as to what happens in the street," Barnett said. "This was an attempt to use less force not more.... That does not a murderer make."
A large team of investigators from the Orange County district attorney's office spent 11 weeks combing through a mountain of evidence before a decision was made to file the criminal charges.
Key pieces of evidence included a 30-minute surveillance video taken from a pole camera at the downtown Fullerton bus station and digital audio recording devices carried by Fullerton officers.
Dana Page, Thomas' stepmother, said it was "numbing" to hear Rackauckas recite the details.
She said she was extremely happy with the charges, but said the four other officers involved in the case should also be charged.
"Nothing will bring Kelly back, but we miss him every day," she said. "We'll take the two for now."
Full coverage: Kelly Thomas death
Ron Thomas satisfied with charges in son's death
Kelly Thomas begged for his life from 'menacing' officer, D.A. says
Post by mightyspuds on Sept 21, 2011 19:58:49 GMT -8
That whole bad apple barrel needs to go,ALL OF EM!.This wasnt an isolated case,its how they do business. ============================== Fullerton City Councilman Pat McKinley, the city's former police chief, said Wednesday night that he hired the two officers charged in connection with the fatal beating of Kelly Thomas.
"I hired the two officers charged today and cannot comprehend how they drifted so far from their training," McKinley said in a statement.
Officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.
Photos: Kelly Thomas' death
McKinley, a former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, was Fullerton's police chief for 16 years before being elected to the City Council in November 2010.
His comments were included with statements that were also issued by Fullerton Mayor Richard F. Jones and Mayor Pro Tem Don Bankhead. The three officials are facing a recall effort by people who blame them for failing to exhibit leadership and act aggressively in the wake of the July beating that has rocked the city.
Full coverage: Kelly Thomas' death
The statements, which offered condolences to the Thomas family, were part of an email sent to reporters by a community group opposing the recall effort.
Jones said "it has been hard to refrain from commenting" about the beating of Thomas, adding that he had remained silent because of the criminal investigation by the Orange County district attorney's office.
"My sincere apology goes out to the Thomas family for the pain they have suffered with the loss of Kelly," Jones said.
Bankhead, a retired Fullerton police officer who spent 31 years on the force, said "two rogue police officers failed Kelly ... and disgraced the department and our city."
It has become apparent over the last couple of decades that the police, especially in populous areas, are borderline mentally deficient. Some are obviously over the line. After viewing the photos of the two "police" who murdered this man I can only hope they are executed by taser. But I suppose they will be slapped on the wrist and turned loose back in society. I further imagine when friends and relatives of victims of this sort of torture begin to eliminate these thugs by whatever means necessary the police will react with cries of outrage, etc. I told a friend well over a year ago when Homeland Security began really acting abusive that it was a dangerous time to wear a uniform of any kind. You watch, the worm will turn. If/when the revolution starts it will be very ugly in some parts. No doubt there are still some decent folks in law enforcement....er, somewhere.
Post by mightyspuds on Sept 22, 2011 6:44:14 GMT -8
What I wonder is this police abuse new,or just the internet makes it known?
We have a sheriff up here,middle aged,lives in my neighborhood.Really good guy,pure professional and gives a dam about our neighborhood and us.
We have 2 on other side of town,same dept,that neighbors fear.Real jerks according to the community.Dangerous even.
Whats up with that? Cant paint em all with same brush.I hate to think what happens to the good guy when anarchy arrives? There are still Pro's out there,but seems like the jerks have suddenly become the majority. Just a reflection of the generations coming up perhaps?
This site,and the lists of crimes by Police....I dont want my Family,or me,anywhere near these guys,too many psych jobs out there IMO.
"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."