Mother of homeless man killed by police settles with city

Reuters News
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Posted: May 18, 2012 2:49 PM
Mother of homeless man killed by police settles with city

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The mother of a schizophrenic homeless man who died after he was beaten and repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by police in California last year has reached a $1 million settlement with the city of Fullerton, both sides said.

Videotape of the beating of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, which was repeatedly broadcast on cable television, shows Thomas lying on the ground screaming, "They're killing me," as officers swarmed over him, delivering multiple blows and shocks.

Last week an Orange County Superior Court judge ordered two Fullerton policemen, Officer Manuel Ramos and Corporal Jay Cicinelli, to stand trial on homicide charges in Thomas' death. They are due back in court next week.

Thomas' mother, Cathy Thomas, and Fullerton officials said in a joint statement released late on Tuesday that the settlement was reached after her attorney approached lawyers for the city about an early resolution of the case.

"Pursuant to that mediated settlement, in exchange for the payment of $1 million by the city to Ms. Thomas, Ms. Thomas has chosen to forego pursuing her potential claims against the city and its police officers arising from the death of her son," the statement said.

The settlement does not affect a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Fullerton by Kelly Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, who has been a vocal critic of city and police officials. Ron and Cathy Thomas are divorced and pursuing litigation separately.

Prosecutors said Ramos and Cicinelli, who approached Thomas to question him about reports of vandalized cars near a bus depot, turned a routine police encounter into an unnecessary and savage beating that cost the unarmed man his life.

Defense lawyers have argued that Thomas started the struggle when he failed to obey police commands.

Thomas died five days after the July 5 beating without ever regaining consciousness. Photos of him lying in a hospital bed showed his face, which sustained multiple fractures, bruised, swollen and lacerated beyond recognition.

Ramos, 38, is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the case, and faces a maximum penalty of 15 years to life in prison if found guilty.

Cicinelli, 40, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and the use of excessive force. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted. Both policemen have pleaded not guilty.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Xavier Briand)