During the first hour of today's preliminary hearing for two Fullerton Police Department officers accused of criminally killing a homeless man last July, the biggest news came from a paramedic who first treated exceptionally minor scratches and bruises on cops before trying to save the brutalized, dying victim.
Under questioning by prosecutor Jim Tanizaki, Fullerton Fire Department paramedic Ron Stancyk admitted that at the request of whining officers he paused for about "a minute" to aid the cops before turning his attention to Kelly Thomas' extensive injuries.
Police photographs introduced by Tanizaki showed tiny scratches, some swelling and bruising on the cops, but massive wounds to Thomas' head, face, hands and legs.
Stancyk testified that when he arrived at the scene he saw a huge group of cops standing*** about 15 feet away from the barely breathing, blood-covered Thomas, who was handcuffed and lying on the street.
[***UPDATE: Video of the unnecessary killing later shown in court today seems to indicate this was not precise testimony. After Thomas lost consciousness from vicious pummeling, the huddled cops remained standing over him when the paramedics arrived. The paramedics didn't appear to be in any hurry to help Thomas, which is a disgraceful revelation that casts shame on the Fullerton Fire Department. Since when do minor scratches get priority when someone is dying?]
None of the officers rendered any medical aid as the victim's life began slipping away.
What were they doing instead?
According to today's testimony, the officers were overwhelmed by chatting amongst themselves about who was most exhausted after beating Thomas' face to a pulp and who had the worst--as my mother used to call them when I was in the first grade--boo boo.
During the lunch break, Ron Thomas--the victim's father--broke down momentarily when a television reporter asked him if he knew that the cops had diverted the paramedics to their own needs first. Tears formed in Thomas' eyes. It was a potent, painful fact he too learned today.
Though Tanizaki questioned the first three prosecution witnesses, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas began the hearing by reading a lengthy list of stipulations into the official record.
At one point, Rackauckas interrupted questions by defense lawyer Michael Schwartz, who was establishing the point that when Thomas cried in protest to the beating he must have been alive and breathing--and thus died later from perhaps, as the defense is pushing, a mysterious heart attack.
The line of questioning annoyed the DA, who mocked Schwartz by saying, "You just spoke 11 words without taking a breath."
Schwartz, who represents officer Jay Cicinelli, was not amused. He asked for the DA to be reprimanded. But Superior Court Judge Walt Schwarm, a former Rackauckas staffer, declined.
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Defense lawyer John Barnett, who represents Officer Manuel Ramos and believes that there is no proof that his client's actions contributed to Thomas' death, also questioned witnesses.
Testimony resumes this afternoon.
At the conclusion of the proceedings this week, Judge Schwarm will decide if the case can go to a jury.