Two California police officers were charged Wednesday for the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man. One officer was charged with second-degree murder.
Six police officers are accused of taking part in the beating of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas at a bus depot in Fullerton on July 5. Officer Manuel Ramos was allegedly the first officer to beat Thomas. He is the one charged with murder as well as involuntary manslaughter.
The Los Angeles Times reports that it is "extremely rare for an officer to face murder charges for actions on duty."
Ramos remains jailed on $1 million bail. If convicted he could face life in prison.
Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force. Those charges carry up to four years behind bars.
Police were called to the depot to investigate reports of a man peering into parked cars and pulling on door handles. When they arrived they found Thomas, and Ramos threatened to beat him, which prosecutors said he did.
The Times writes:
In the next nine minutes and 40 seconds, Thomas was tackled, hit with a baton, pinned to the ground, punched repeatedly in the ribs, kneed in the head, Tasered four times and then struck in the face with the Taser device eight times, (Orange County District Attorney Tony) Rackauckas said.
Hospital records showed that Thomas suffered brain injuries, a shattered nose, a smashed cheekbone, broken ribs and internal bleeding. The cause of death, Rackauckas said, was "mechanical compression of the thorax," basically being crushed and unable to breath. There were no traces of drugs or alcohol in his body. He died five days later after he was taken off life support.
This is what Thomas looked like in the hospital:
Rackauckas said Thomas suffered from schizophrenia and could not understand the officers' orders.
However the lawyer for Ramos claimed, "Officer Ramos was confronted that evening with a non-compliant suspect with a history of violence," said attorney John Barnett. "Officer Ramos had the responsibility and the duty to detain, restrain and arrest him.… This was an attempt to use less force, not more."
The other four officers were not charged because they did not hear Ramos's alleged initial threats against Thomas.