On Jan. 13, 2014, a jury in Orange County, California, acquitted former Fullerton Police Department officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli of criminal charges after they were accused of beating and killing Kelly Thomas, a male drifter with schizophrenia. Ramos was charged with involuntary manslaughter and second degree murder and Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. Residents and supporters of the Thomas family were shocked by the verdict and gathered outside the Fullerton Department, January 18, to protest.
"The people are very angry," said Ron Thomas, father of Kelly Thomas. "There was no justice by these jurors who just didn't get it […] If a bad cop wants to do something to us, they can."
Many protestors were baffled as to why jurors did not convict the officers after they saw video, audio, and images of the horrific incident. "Everyone can see the beating, it's online. And the fact that the jury saw that beating and they said not guilty … I have not words," said one protestor to Reason TV.
Ron Thomas thanked supporters for showing up and said that he had been talking with federal authorities who said they have been examining the case to see if they would file charges against the officers. (Read Jacob Sullum's argument about why trying the case again in a federal court - however understandable and well-intentioned - would constitute double jeopardy.)
Cicinelli told the Orange County Register, Jan. 15, that he will take the legal means necessary to try and get his job back as a Fullerton Police Officer, although Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes has said he will fight these efforts:
"I was wrongfully terminated. How do you argue with a jury of 12 who all agree on the same thing?" he said. "They sat through the whole trial and heard all the facts."
He also cited the trial testimony of Fullerton Cpl. Stephen Rubio, his training officer, who testified that Cicinelli's actions during the struggle with Thomas were within department policy.
If legal channels to get his job back are unsuccessful, Cicinelli is unclear on other options.
"I just have to see where this takes me," he said. "It's like starting over. … My whole life has been stopped."
Fullerton Police arrested at least 14 people at the rally after some protestors blocked intersections, vandalized property, assaulted a news photographer, and refused to disperse after being ordered. From Voice of OC:
Kelly Thomas' father, Ron, has repeatedly called for protests to remain peaceful. But, he says, a "splinter group" showed up on Saturday.
"I think that they are people who take advantage of an opportunity," Thomas said in an interview, adding that another TV news reporter was surrounded in her van earlier in the week.
"That's not what we're about at all," he said. "We never have been."
Produced by Paul Detrick.
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