Two Fullerton police officers have been criminally charged in the violent confrontation that left a homeless man dead, Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas announced Wednesday.
Officer Manuel Ramos has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in connection with the beating of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic man. Officer Jay Cicinelli has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.Rackauckas said the department reviewed 151 witness statements, videos of the beating, medical reports and police statements.
The district attorney’s office had been awaiting the coroner’s determination on the cause of death before deciding whether to file charges.
Officers approached Kelly Thomas on July 5 at the bus depot in downtown Fullerton while responding to a report of someone trying to break into cars. According to witness accounts, Thomas ran when officers attempted to search his bag. Exactly what happened next is unclear, but witnesses said they saw multiple officers hitting Kelly and shooting him with a Taser while he was on the ground.
Officials from the district attorney’s office have said they were awaiting toxicology and other test results from the coroner before making a decision on the case. That report was handed over to the district attorney’s office Tuesday, but the findings were not made public.
Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man with schizophrenia, was a regular presence in downtown Fullerton. He died five days after the confrontation, after being removed from life support.
Earlier this month, an attorney representing the Thomas family released hospital records that showed Thomas had tested negative for drugs and alcohol and that the immediate cause of death was “brain death” due to “head trauma” from the incident.
The hospital records released showed that he suffered brain injuries, a shattered nose, a smashed cheekbone, broken ribsand severe internal bleeding. Thomas also had been shocked with a stun gun “multiple” times, including in the left chest near the heart, the records showed.
Thomas’ father, Ron, has been pushing the district attorney’s office to file charges against the officers, and the case has sparked a furious reaction, including weekly protests outside the police station and a recall campaign against three City Council members.