Kelly Thomas

FBI, Medical Experts Pin Kelly Thomas' Brutal Death on Police Beating

Retired FBI agent testified Thomas had right to defend himself from police brutality


Has anybody used mugshots to make a "Gang member or arrested police officer?" quiz site yet?

Critics of police misbehavior may be pleased to hear that the trial of the Fullerton, Calif., police officers accused of beating homeless schizophrenic Kelly Thomas to death has not been ignored by the Southern California media. The Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, OC Weekly and several local news stations have been covering the case since it opened last week. Two former officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, are on trial for killing him. A third faces separate charges.

Damning testimony came Monday when a retired FBI agent was called by prosecutors to the stand to analyze the use of force by officers and declared it excessive. Here's how the OC Weekly described it:

During [Monday]'s testimony in the Kelly Thomas murder trial, a retired FBI supervising special agent and tactical police training expert told jurors that the 37-year-old homeless man had a right to use force to defend himself against two Fullerton police officers who'd essentially converted themselves into heavily armed thugs with badges.

John Wilson, who spent 60 hours studying the gruesome, July 2011, police attack on an unarmed Thomas, said that officer Manuel Ramos began the minor encounter unnecessarily by immediately taking out his baton, swinging it in both hands and poking it at the victim, who hadn't been physically threatening.

But, according to Wilson, the most unprofessional moment prior to the killing occurred when Ramos mocked the schizophrenia-addled Thomas as stupid, dramatically put on gloves as he towered over him and said, "Now, you see my fists? They're getting ready to fuck you up."

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas played related portions of a surveillance tape of the brutality and, over Ramos defense lawyer John Barnett's incessant objections, asked Wilson if he considered the cop conduct appropriate under the circumstances.

"Clearly, no," replied the 26-year FBI veteran, who at one point served on the U.S. Attorney General's protection detail in Washington, D.C. "I have problems with everything that happened after Ramos put the gloves on."

On cross, defense for the two officers on trial tried to paint Wilson as a guy who didn't know what it was like to walk a beat or what the work of a street cop was actually like, according to the OC Weekly.

Yesterday, the trauma surgeon who treated Thomas when he was brought in following the beating testified. He said Thomas' death was ultimately caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain, a result of his inability to breathe properly during the beating. From the Los Angeles Times:

When he arrived, Thomas was breathing through the tube, which was attached to an air bag that was squeezed by hand, [Dr. Michael] Lekawa said. His blood pressure was extremely low and his PH score indicated that his body was producing so much acid that, the doctor said, he has never seen a patient with a similar PH score live.

"I've never seen a survivor, ever, in my 18 years," he said.

The cause of Thomas' death, Lekawa said, was inadequate oxygen to his brain. During the confrontation with police, "various persons were on [Thomas] and holding him down … preventing him from breathing," Lekawa said.

"He was doing everything he could to breathe but becoming less and less mentally with it to do what he could to breathe," he said.

Ultimately, Thomas stopped breathing, which caused his heart to stop, leading to "irreversible brain damage," he said.

Below, a vivid reminder from ReasonTV of the brutality that lead to this case:

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  1. defense for the two officers on trial tried to paint Wilson as a guy who didn’t know what it was like to walk a beat or what the work of a street cop was actually like

    The OFFICER SAFETY defense.

    1. If Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor, the jury must acquit.

    2. I would love for them to have a LEO testify using this defense. The cross examination by a competent defense attorney would be epic. LEO’s would be shown to be a bunch of cowards who overestimate the danger of their job and are quick to resort to overwhelming force in response the the slightest threat to their safety authority.

    3. How long before it’s standard police procedure for officers to drag people out of their cars and beat them into a satisfactory coma before asking them why they think the officer pulled them over?

    4. These guys walk? Judging by the waistline of most LEO’s around here, that is definitely not the case.

  2. Walking a beat. Very descriptive. Don’t know why I never noticed it before.

    1. I was thinking the same thing.

  3. On cross, defense for the two officers on trial tried to paint Wilson as a guy who didn’t know what it was like to walk a beat or what the work of a street cop was actually like, according to the OC Weekly.

    So beating someone to death is just part of the job? Derpity-do.

    1. Someone physically attached me on the job in the past. Therefore, Kelley Thomas deserved his beating. We all want to go home safely at the end of our shift, you know.

  4. On cross, defense for the two officers on trial tried to paint Wilson as a guy who didn’t know what it was like to walk a beat or what the work of a street cop was actually like, according to the OC Weekly.

    In defense of the defense attorneys, you have to say something. But I suspect the “you have to be on the wall to understand” defense is unlikely to be effective. These guys are deservedly fucked.

    1. Out there somewhere in the jails waits a 9-inch pipe hanging on a 300 lb. convict bear that enjoys pounding piggy poopers.

      1. They will be placed in PC, not general population.

        1. I was working out this morning and thinking about that whole PC thing. One of the reasons the old school mafia got so out of control in the 50s and 60s is because they didn’t fear prison. When the mafia went to prison they were placed in PC with their own kind and basically ran the place. I bet cops have the same set up. If I were King or President, I would issue an EO telling the BOP to put the former cops in the general population. Who cares if they are in “danger”. If you are small and effeminate, you are probably in more danger than the usual inmate. I don’t see why cops should get special treatment.

          1. Who cares if they are in “danger.”

            Indeed. Perhaps a little extra motivation to not be a dick would go a looong ways.

            “Oh man, if I fuck up, I could literally get ass raped every day for the rest of my life. Fuck that shit, I’m going straight.”

          2. I wonder if PC is really much better. Whenever we see stats on prison rape it’s frequently the guards who are doing it, or at least looking the other way. I’d also guess the guards enjoy messing with someone who previously had power. The only thing the cops have going in their favor is their knowledge of the law (relative to other prisoners).

          3. Who cares if they are in “danger”.

            Uh…because they are wards of the state and by denying them their freedom (for legitimate reasons, for sure) the state has essentially taken responsibility for their safety.

            I’ve never been a fan of prison as a dangerous place. There are lots of people who seem to celebrate prison as a dangerous, ass-rapey place, but I’ve always felt that if the government is going to run prisons, then they have a grave responsibility to care for the people who they put in them.

            1. I don’t think any prison should be dangerous. But I don’t see how cops are in any more or less danger that other types of inmates that we don’t put in PC.

        2. They ought to be thrown in a dark hole. Preferably one waist deep in sewage.

  5. Shackford continues his Alt-text winning ways.

    1. Bravo!

    2. he’ll never replace SHE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED as my favorite.


        1. If reason held a funding drive explicitly to pay Lucy’s salary, I’ll bet they could make another $150,000 in half the time.

          1. I’d donate.


          2. So we’d get her on a multiyear contract?

  6. I want these two guys to hang, but I fully expect them to be given short sentences due to their “years of service to the community.”

    1. The jury won’t have the balls to convict them of murder. They will come back with manslaughter and these animals will get something under 10 years in the can. They will be left as felons and face a pretty bleak life during and after prison. But they won’t get the decades long sentence they deserve.

      1. They will come back with manslaughter and these animals will get something under 10 years in the can.

        You really think so? I’m thinking they’ll get a year in prison at the very most, with a lot of probation.

        1. I’d bet on sentenced to 3, out in 1.5 for good behavior.

        2. They will go to prison. I bet from five to ten.

          1. For those who remember the Otto Zehm case in Spokane, the guy who “just wanted a Snickers bar,” one of his killers got 51 months in a low security Federal prison. Mehserle, the BART cop that mistook his Glock for his Taser, got two years minus time served, for involuntary manslaughter. I’m not holding my breath that any of the officers will do any more time than that.

            Naturally, any of us convicted for the above crimes would have gotten even less of a punishment than these unfairly singled-out officers of the law.

            1. This is worse and harder to defend than those cases. That is why I am betting five to ten. Still grossly low.

    2. I don’t know. The fact that the prosecutor is going after them pretty hard doesn’t bode well for them. Remember, at least half the reason bad cops get no/reduced sentences is because of the collusion of the prosecution. If the prosecutor is after them instead, their prospects just got a lot worse.

      Also, it’s tougher to get a lenient sentence when you beat a mentally handicapped 135-lb man to death for no reason on film.

      1. How does sentencing work in a murder trial? Does the jury decide the sentence or does the judge?

        1. I think it may depend on the locality, but the jury may come up with a sentence, and then the judge can override it if they feel it is unjust. I am not a lawyer, so I’d appreciate any trial-experienced lawyers correcting me if I’m wrong.

        2. Depends on the state & in some instances the county, and whether it’s federal or state.

        3. As a general rule the judge imposes the sentence based on that jurisdiction’s sentencing scheme after the jury finds the defendant guilty. A jury is generally only involved in “sentencing” in a capital (murder) case and even then in many jurisdictions the judge has leeway to reject the death penalty recommendation.

        4. I was just on a jury where there were multiplescounts of rape and sexual abuse of a child. Judge decided sentencing like a month later. He got life with no parole and bloody well deserved it.

          1. I’m sorry you had to go through that, JB. Sitting through that as a juror had to be awful. The last time I got called for jury duty, I managed to get struck from a panel that was going to have an aggravated sex assault of a child case. I don’t regret managing to skip that one.

            1. Yeah it was tragic. Two weeks of nothing but sadness. Hated it but in the end I was glad I was there. Thought I might get booted but there were a number of jurors openly hostile to the defense attorney so I think they were running out or jurors. They started with a much larger group than normal.

          2. What about the quantum of evidence presented?

            Hopefully, you just didn’t buy what the prosecutor was selling?

            1. He was guilty as shit. Actually after the trial we were told he had been accused of molesting his three sons in a prior marraige. We were not allowed to hear that during the trial. They didnt take him to court because he was alreadg going to prison for forgery and the boys mother didnt want to put them through a trial. Of course this poor girl paid the price for that. No more though.

      2. That and it is easier to defend shooting someone with the “I was so scared I didn’t know what else to do” defense than it is trying to defend the sustained beating that these assholes administered. You might be able to get a jury to believe that the guy had a beating coming. But you are very unlikely to convince a jury that it was okay for your client to continue the beating after the guy is unconscious or begging him to stop.

        1. Not so sure; if I were on a jury where the defendant had beaten a member of congress to death, I’d not settle for anything less than acquittal.

          1. And a party

  7. every time I see a story like this here, I wonder why here is the only place the story is seen.

    1. Reason isn’t getting its dick stroked weekly by the local sheriff like most publications are. Dispensing information to the press is actually the science of tit-for-tat. Something evil people have to do to manipulate collective social perception in their favor.

    2. It’s all over the news in southern California. There are even a couple of radio stations that refuse to let this go. You may not see it in the rest of the country, but Californians are really pissed off about this.

      1. glad to hear that. It sure as hell is not the case everywhere else.

      2. ^This. I’ve been surprised that it hasn’t faded over time.

        1. There are a number of sites which cover the on-going, escalating war being waged by the paramilitary pussies on the Mundanes.

          There is nobody better than William Norman Grigg on this topic. Yes, he beats Balko, all day, everyday.

          1. Linx or it didn’t happen.

            1. Pro Liberate Blog (not to be confused with our Pro Lib).

              He is also regularly featured at

              1. Go ahead, spell it out:

  8. I want every cop involved, including the ones who were too fucking cowardly to intervene, to be executed for murder in the first degree, with a live feed to every law enforcement facility in the country.

    And I want a pony.

    1. Draw and quarter them and then send the bits to be displayed throughout the country.

      1. I had been thinking that. If someone were to interview me about it, I’d say “drawn and quartered, and send their parts to different corners of the country. I am not exaggerating!”

  9. the OC Weekly

    Don’t call it that.

      1. I don’t think that’s the clip you meant to link.

        1. I appreciated the Arrested Development reference and was rushed to post something (my boss is extra antsy today), so that was the best I could find: The cops calling a black puppet aggressive because it didn’t follow orders. It’s hilarious.

  10. It’s like listening to some member of the Ar?js Kommando or the Eagles of Riga claim “You weren’t there; you don’t know what it was like!” to justify slaughtering their jewish neighbors.

    1. Along similar lines I recently watched a BBC doc on the Nazi apparatus which was painfully detail-oriented. They interviewed one of the few remaining German (yes, German, not Nazi) commanders who was responsible for shooting villagers of all ages and genders in the head so they could roll nicely dead into a deep pit. His justification for being able to cope with his macabre actions was that as a child working on a Jewish farm the Jews were very mean to him.

      Many people require almost nothing to cleanly and calmly justify the most merciless brutality known to man.

      1. I read an interview once with old Soviets who had actually murdered entire families in the Ukraine for the crime of hiding grain during a famine. They all said that they honestly believed what they were doing was necessary to build the new and perfect Soviet state. They enjoyed their work.

  11. Also, it’s tougher to get a lenient sentence when you beat a mentally handicapped 135-lb man to death for no reason on film.

    It depends on the jury. They may end up mad at the prosecutor for forcing them to watch this atrocity over and over, and decide to punish him by letting the cops off easy.

    You know, like the liberal outrage about “dead baby” stories which make them feel bad. They don’t really give a shit about the children, they just don’t want to have to hear about them.

  12. That guy on the left… what’s wrong with your faaace!?

    Also, I like the casual briev, “On cross,” for, “on cross examination.” Is that real lawyer talk? If they haven’t said it in Law & Order, I wouldn’t know it.

    1. Cicinelli was originally a cop with LAPD, got shot in the head, and then went to work for Fullerton.

    2. That guy on the left… what’s wrong with your faaace!?

      He got shot in the face as a rookie and has a glass eye. IIRC he’s been collecting p disability from the LAPD since the late 90’s.

    3. +1 70 minute deconstruction

    4. Baby Ruth! Baby Ruth!

    5. He looks like a James Bond villian

  13. Speaking of cop/thug analogies, I hope those guys have distinctive tattoos identifying them as members of the thin blue line.

      1. Okay, how about husky?

        If you insist upon a politically correct approach, how about carbohydrate consumption limitation complex?

  14. I gotta think that Thomas’s father being a cop has something to do with there even being a prosecution in the first place. He could be a powerful prosecution witness as well.

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