Ex-California policemen acquitted in beating death of mentally ill transient

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 13, 2014 7:13 PM

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two ex-policemen were acquitted on Monday in the 2011 beating death of a mentally ill California homeless man that touched off protests and political upheaval in the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton.

Former Fullerton police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were found not guilty of all charges linked to the death of Kelly Thomas following a closely watched month-long trial, according to a spokeswoman for the district attorney.

Prosecutors had accused the two officers, who approached Thomas near a bus depot in July 2011 to question him about reports of vandalized cars, of turning a routine police encounter into an unnecessary and savage beating that cost the unarmed homeless man his life.

Ramos, 39, had been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the case, while Cicinelli, a 41-year-old ex-corporal, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.

"We respect the jury's verdict, and appreciate the consideration the jury gave to the evidence. We understand that there may be a wide variety of reactions to the verdict and encourage anybody who wishes to express their feelings to do so respectfully," Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes said.

Defense attorneys had argued that Thomas, 37, was dangerous and that the two officers responded according to their training.

The confrontation was captured by a surveillance camera at the bus station and led to protests, as well as the ouster of three city council members in a recall election.

(Reporting by Dana Feldman and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)