Lawyer For Cop Charged In Beating Death Of Homeless Man Claims Officer Didn't Use ENOUGH Force
by Tim Cushing
The trial for two of the three Fullerton police officers charged in the beating death of mentally ill homeless man, Kelly Thomas, has begun. Manuel Ramos, the officer who first approached Kelly Thomas and delivered most of the damage, is facing charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Officer Jay Ciccinelli, who arrived on the scene moments later, is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.
Ramos' lawyer, John Barnett, sought to have charges against his client dropped last year, claiming the 10-minute-long ordeal that Thomas suffered through before lapsing into a coma (first, attempting to tell officers he couldn't breathe and, towards the end, crying out for his father) was a direct result of Thomas' reluctance to be further hassled by the officer.
When a "recalcitrant" Thomas did not comply, Ramos was entitled to use force and the threat of force to complete his arrest, Barnett contended in his 80-page motion. The recording shows Ramos relied almost exclusively on "force" rather than the "threat of force." As mentioned earlier, Ramos approached a seated Thomas before the beating commenced and said, "You see these fists? They are getting ready to fuck you up." That, I suppose, would be considered a "threat of force." Ramos wasn't kidding. His fists, along with his nightstick and additional abuse from a handful of other officers, completely "fucked up" Kelly Thomas, leaving him in an irreversible coma. Jay Cicinelli contributed in his own way, beating Thomas' face with the butt end of his Taser. (Cicinelli is captured on Ramos' mic stating that he "smashed [Thomas'] face to hell.")
"Rather than use actual force, Officer Ramos employed a lawful, conditional threat, to use force," he wrote. "The death of Kelly Thomas was not the natural and probable consequence of that lawful threat."
[You can go to this link to see a picture taken by Thomas' father after his son's arrival at the hospital -- but we warn you that it's gruesome.]
There's really no questioning what happened. Security camera footage, synched to Ramos' mic, paints a brutally clear picture of how much Thomas went through before his body and mind gave out. Even the coroner's report notes the death wasn't accidental, listing "mechanical suppression of the thorax" as the cause of death. [The recording is 33 minutes long. The "altercation" begins about 15 minutes in. Five minutes later, there are six officers restraining Thomas. Warning: video, especially Thomas' anguished screams, is Not Safe For Life.]
John Barnett is still defending Officer Ramos. He's decided to top his earlier claims that the officer's actions were lawful and appropriate.
Ramos’ attorney… told jurors that the officers who beat Thomas on a summer night in 2011 not only didn’t use excessive force in the incident, they “weren’t using enough force.” Watch that tape again (or for the first time) and see whether it appears the cops are "losing the battle." Thomas, who weighed 135 pounds, was subdued by six Fullerton officers. The recording clearly captures him telling officers he can't breathe. Thomas was homeless and suffered from schizophrenia. While he wasn't cooperative with Ramos' instructions before he was beaten, he was still pretty far from being a threat. Last year, Barnett claimed the force was "appropriate." Now, he claims it was "too little." Officer Ramos apparently has no idea how to deploy an appropriate amount of force, despite his training.
The officers were forced to call for backup because they could not subdue an out-of-control Thomas, John Barnett said. “They’re losing the fight,” Barnett said.
“This case is not about a homeless, helpless, harmless mentally ill guy, this case is about a man who made choices in his life, bad choices that led to his tragic death,” Barnett said. No one's arrest should end in death -- no matter what "choices" they've made -- not when six officers are looking to control one person. And for Barnett to claim that somehow choices the mentally ill Thomas made earlier in his life contributed to his death is not only disingenuous, it's genuinely sickening. If that's the case, then bad choices made by Officers Ramos and Cicinelli in their lives led to them being charged with manslaughter and murder.
This isn't about Kelly Thomas' life choices. This is about the choices made by a handful of officers -- choices that resulted in the death of a man whose life, what there was of it, came to a sudden halt because he ran into Officer Ramos and his backup.
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