SANTA ANA (CBS) — Two Fullerton police officers charged in the beating death of a schizophrenic transient appeared to be in shock immediately after the confrontation, saying the man wouldn’t stop fighting them, a police forensic specialist testified Monday.READ MORE: First Case Of Omicron Variant Detected In LA County
Testifying in a hearing to determine if Officer Manuel Anthony Ramos and Cpl. Jay Patrick Cicinelli should stand trial in the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, Dawn Scruggs said she responded to the Fullerton Transportation Center on July 5, 2011, in response to three “code three” calls, meaning an officer needs assistance.
She said Ramos was holding his rib cage area, and he “looked like he was in disbelief at what happened — nervous, exhausted and in pain.”
Asked by a defense attorney if Ramos had indicated he had never had a suspect fight him so hard, Scruggs said yes.
Cicinelli said at the scene that he was tired and in “awe” and what had happened, saying Thomas would not stop struggling with officers.
Ramos was charged in September with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter while Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in connection with Thomas’ death.
The 38-year-old Ramos, a 10-year Fullerton police veteran, is free on $1 million bail, one of the highest ever posted in Orange County. Cicinelli, 42, is free on $25,000 bail.
Ramos faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life if convicted of second-degree murder but only four years if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
During her testimony, photos were shown depicting cuts and scratches suffered by Ramos, Cicinelli and another officer. There were audible groans from the courtroom audience, however, when a contrasting photo of Thomas’ bruised and bloodied face were shown. Thomas died five days after the confrontation with police.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said previously that Ramos put on latex gloves and held his fists up to Thomas, who was detained following a call reporting that someone was trying to break into cars at the Fullerton Transportation Center.READ MORE: Fake Students Potentially Stealing Millions From Financial Aid
Thomas was apparently having trouble following Ramos’ instructions, Rackauckas said.
“Now, see my fists?” Ramos allegedly told Thomas.
“Yeah. What about them?” Thomas replied.
“They are getting ready to (expletive) you up,” Ramos said.
“This declaration was a turning point — a defining moment,” Rackauckas said at a news conference in September. “Ramos was telling Kelly Thomas that this encounter had changed from a fairly routine police detention into an impending beating at the hands of an angry police officer.”
That made Thomas fear for his life, which led him to try to defend himself and run away, Rackauckas said.
Ramos’ attorney, John Barnett, is expected to argue that Thomas, though his failure to comply with police instructions, triggered the struggle that led to his death.
A video of the incident will be shown to the judge, Barnett said. Rackauckas said there is no audio, but investigators have synchronized sound to it by using the officers’ audio recorders.
Barnett has alleged that Thomas had a history of violence, but that won’t come into play during the preliminary hearing, he said. Those allegations have angered the victim’s father, Ron Thomas, a former orange County sheriff’s deputy who says Barnett is trying to win his case by “degrading my son.”
Ron Thomas recently told City News Service that he spoke with U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. at the annual victims’ rights rally about federal prosecutors potentially taking over the case if a judge dismisses the state charges. The FBI last year said it was looking into the case.MORE NEWS: Parolee Aariel Maynor Arrested In Connection With Jacqueline Avant Killing After Shooting Himself In The Foot
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