A jury acquitted two former Fullerton police officers Monday in the death of Kelly Thomas. Charges against a third officer, Joseph Wolfe, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter, were also dropped.
Kelly Thomas was a homeless, schizophrenic man who died after a violent confrontation with law enforcement officers in Fullerton, California in 2011. Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli had been charged with excessive use of force and involuntary manslaughter.
Family, friends and supporters of Thomas have reacted angrily to the verdict and are now hoping that federal authorities will step in. Kelly Thomas' father Ron Thomas who is a former sheriff’s deputy said he hoped that the U.S. Justice Department would charge the officers as he was dumbfounded that they were able to get away with such a crime.
The FBI has said the agency has been investigating the case since 2011. Now that the state trial has ended they will examine the evidence to determine whether further charges can be brought against the trio at the federal level. A total of 25 witnesses testified during the hearing and a 33-minute surveillance video, synced with audio recording was also presented to the court.
Disturbing footage of Kelly Thomas' beating
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas prosecuted the case himself and has defended the outcome of the trial saying it was a fair trial. He said if given another chance, he “would do the same thing again.”
Outrage and protests have been reported in Fullerton where Kelly Thomas was beaten to death by the police. Curtis Gamble, a homeless friend of Thomas, said there are many other friends who witnessed the beating but they did not get the chance to testify during the trial. More than 100 people gathered at the site (known as Kelly’s corner) with some leaving candles and flowers. Thomas' mother stood among the crowd, visibly heartbroken.
Watch Kelly Thomas Trial Verdict
Image via copblock.org