SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — Closing arguments began Tuesday morning in the trial of two former Fullerton police officers accused in the fatal beating of a homeless man.
Manuel Ramos has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, while Jay Cincinelli faces involuntary manslaughter and excessive force charges in the July 2011 death of Kelly Thomas.
Prosecutors claim Thomas, 37, died because of the beating he suffered at the hands of officers. The beating was caught on surveillance video.
Ramos can be seen putting his closed fists in Thomas’ face and threatening to beat him if he didn’t comply with their questioning. Thomas then began to run away before he was tackled and beaten by officers.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackaukas told the jurors Tuesday that Thomas, by law, had the right to resist arrest.
“This is just a brazen threat against Kelly Thomas, just a threat to beat the daylights out of him,” Rackaukas said. “The police officer doesn’t have a right to go about beating the hell out of somebody, savagely, in making an arrest. He’s really only allowed to use that force which is reasonably necessary to make an arrest.”
Rackaukas said Ramos, “who was well beyond his legitimate authority at this point…had a duty to cease and desist his unlawful conduct. A duty to stop the use of force by the police in this situation — but that’s not what he did.”
Ramos’ attorney John Barnett argued that Thomas resisted the officers’ lawful commands, which escalated a routine matter. He said Thomas died from a bad heart weakened by years of drug abuse.
“This case isn’t about a bully cop who was trying to just beat down a homeless guy. It’s about a police officer who for 10 years protected his community and did everything he could do to keep his community safe, including the homeless people. And he used training…and he followed the training he received at the Fullerton Police Department.”
Jury deliberations are expected to begin late Wednesday or early Thursday.
Former Officer Joe Wolfe, who was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force, will be tried separately.
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