[UPDATED with Arraignment:] Murder Charge, Counts Against 2 Cops in Kelly Thomas Beating Case
UPDATE, SEPT 21, 4:03 P.M.: At his arraignment this afternoon, which the Weekly's Marisa Gerber attended, a handcuffed Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos pleaded not guilty to felony second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges in the beating death of Kelly Thomas.
Held in lieu of $1 million bail, Ramos then had his arraignment continued to Monday in Judge Erick Larsh's Orange County Superior Court courtroom in Santa Ana.
Police Corporal Jay Cicinelli also pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force in the unarmed homeless and mentally ill man's death. Cicinelli was not in cuffs as he'd already posted a $25,000 bond. He has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for Nov. 4.
Larsh told both cops to relinquish their guns within 24 hours.
Representing the People was the district attorney himself, Tony Rackauckas. When Larsh considered a defense motion to reduce Ramos' bail, the veteran prosecutor had the victim's father, Ron Thomas, approach the bench.
Thomas pleaded with the judge not to reduce bail because of the "horrific way my son was murdered."
Motion to reduce bail: denied.
UPDATE, SEPT 21, 3:25 P.M.: The booking photos for Officer Manuel Ramos and Police Corporal Jay Cicinelli have been released. See below:
Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos, left, and Police Corporal Jay Cicinelli.
Courtesy of Orange County District Attorney's Office
UPDATE, SEPT. 21, 11:59 A.M.: Since the beating death of Kelly Thomas, there has been a call for justice.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas provided some of that this morning with the charges against Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos and Police Corporal Jay Cicinelli.
"We want to praise the DA for his courage and intestinal fortitude," Thomas family attorney Garo Mardirossian said over the shouts of a Ramos supporter nearby, during live televised coverage immediately after T-Rack's announcement.
After going to great lengths to say Orange County law enforcement is "second to none" and has established a strong level of trust in the community, Rackauckas began his announcement by saying maintaining that trust includes prosecuting officers who violate the law. That happened on July 5, the district attorney said, citing the evidence culled from two cell phone video recordings, Fullerton Transportation Depot surveillance video, the statements of 151 witnesses, the police reports from all involved Fullerton Police Department personnel, physical evidence from batons and tasers and the county cororner's report.
Based on that and legal research in applicable laws, Rackauckas decided to charge Ramos with one felony count of second-degree murder and one felony count of involuntary manslaughter that could bring a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison. Cicinelli, meanwhile, was charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of use of excessive force that could put him in a prison cell for four years.
"The biggest shame about this case is it did not have to happen," Rackauckas said. "It could have been avoided." Instead, according to the DA, Ramos took a routine stop of a homeless man he knew to be harmless and turned it into something ugly, reckless and in disregard for human life "under the color of authority."
"Kelly Thomas did not pose any risk," Rackauckas said, noting the homeless man was shirtless with no bulges in his pants and carrying a backpack. "The officers did not feel he had to be patted down for weapons," the county's top prosecutor noted.
As one officer checked the backpack 15 feet away, Ramos barked out instructions that Thomas was obviously having trouble following. "Ramos escalated contact to a physical altercation and unlawful police conduct" by showing up in front of Thomas with latex gloves over fists in the fighting position, standing over the frightened homeless man menacingly and saying, "They are getting ready to f--- you up," Rackauckas related.
"That was definitely a turning point, a defining moment" the district attorney said. "Telling Kelly Thomas at that moment in this encounter had changed a fairly routine police detention into a beating by an angry police officer. By doing this, Ramos instilled in that victim a reasonable fear for his life, in danger of a police officer who wanted to f--- him up with his fists."
Police are allowed to exercise reasonable force, Rackauckas added, but citizens also have a right not to be subjected to unreasonable force and unlawful detentions.
Soon, the batons came out, Thomas' open palms came up in a defensive position and he took a beating so savage he was ultimately taken off life support.
Over the shouts of the Ramos supporter outside, Kelly's father Ron Thomas--who said of that knucklehead, "Too bad for him"--that he was "very happy" and "emotional over the [DA's] decision," as the elder Thomas had wanted at least two cops to face charges.
"I didn't really expect this," he said later. "That is why I am elated. This is really what I wanted to see, [charges] against at least two of them."
UPDATE, SEPT. 21, 11:27 A.M.: Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas just announced that Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos is being charged with two felony counts: second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. He faces a maximum of 15 years to life in state prison if convicted.
Officer Jay Cicinelli is charged with two felony counts: involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force, Rackauckas revealed. The one-eyed cop faces up to four years in state prison if convicted.
The DA added that he does not anticipate charges against the other four officers.
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 21, 11:07 A.M.: The Associated Press is reporting that Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos has been charged with murder in the beating death of homeless man Kelly Thomas.
The news brought tears to Thomas' father, a retired sheriff's deputy, and more tears and cheers from "Kelly's Army" gathered outside the district attorney's office in Santa Ana.
Ramos' attorney, veteran cop defense lawyer John Barnett, confirmed that his client was arrested for second-degree murder, that Ramos surrendered to authorities today, and that he is making bail, the AP reports.
Ron Thomas, 37-year-old Kelly's father, hugged
his girlfriend Dana Pape, Kelly's stepmon, when he received the news.
Any moment, Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas will announce all charges in Kelly Thomas' violent confrontation with six Fullerton cops on July 5.
- Our complete Kelly Thomas archives
- Kelly Thomas Killing Prompts DA Tony Rackauckas' Finest Moment
An Inside Look At Ron Thomas' Day At The District Attorney's Office and the Arraignment of The Two Fullerton Policemen Charged
- Kenton Hampton, Who A Witness Says Punched And Kneed Kelly Thomas In The Head, Is Allegedly Tied To A Third Act Of Violence
- Fullerton Police Cites People for Honking at Protest
- Kelly Thomas Died Of Blunt Force Trauma To The Head, Says Attorney Garo Mardirossian, At Press Conference; Medical Records Released
- Ron Thomas Hopes Fullerton Police Officers Who Killed His Son Are So Scared of Threats That "They Have Diarrhea Every Day"
- Sources: Slidebar Kitchen Placed Call Resulting in Kelly Thomas' Death
- State Funds Classes To Teach Law Enforcement How To Interact With Mentally Ill, Majority Of Officials In OC Haven't Taken It
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts