Replay: Fullerton Cops Go on Trial for Killing Schizophrenic Homeless Man Kelly Thomas

December 3, Reason’s Paul Detrick filed a report from Southern
California, where Fullerton cops are on trial for the killing of
Kelly Thomas, a homeless shizophrenic they apprehended at a bus

Detrick’s earlier reports on the story not only exposed police
actions that were at best misguided and at worst criminal; he also
underscored the ways in which new media brought the case to public

Here’s the original writeup
of his dispatch from the start of
the trial:

The trial of former Fullerton, California, police officers,
Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli began December 2, 2013, in the
beating death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old drifter with
schizophrenia. Thomas died after a July, 2011, altercation with six
police officers in which he was tasered, beaten with batons, and
hit repeatedly in the face with the end of a Taser. Ramos is
charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder and
Cicinelli is charged with excessive force and involuntary

Opening statements from District
Attorney Tony Rackauckas
 detailed Thomas begging the
officers to stop.

“He posed no threat at all, to the police or to anyone else,”
said Rackauckas to jurors. The District Attorney dramatically
demonstrated the events of the encounter using a wooden police

Statements from the defense maintained that Ramos
and Cicinelli committed no crimes and were dealing with an
uncontrollable and violent person. Michael Schwartz, defense
attorney for Cicinelli told jurors in his statements that Thomas’s
behavior “was consistent with someone with a methamphetamine
background” and that his death was brought on by drug-induced heart

The toxicology report
at the time of the incident found no drugs in Thomas’

The trial, taking place at the Orange County Courthouse in Santa
Ana, California, is the first time a uniformed police officer has
been charged with murder in the history of the county. The
trial may never have happened without a slowly built citizen
movement sparked by footage of the beating caught by mobile phone
and a
horrific hospital photo
 taken by Kelly Thomas’ father, Ron

“Nothing was going on, I tried contacting everybody, nobody
cared to do anything,” said
Ron Thomas to Reason TV in 2011.
 “So, I released the
picture of my son [in his hospital bed] and that got everybody’s
attention. When the cell phone video came out, I released that. The
audio had their attention again. You put together the picture with
the sound of what’s happening [and] it’s very, very

The Fullerton community reacted in outrage at the video and
photo at city council meetings and at protests outside the
Fullerton police department. Then when city surveillance footage
was released of the beating, residents pushed for a recall of city

Video produced by Paul Detrick.

For more Reason TV coverage of the Kelly Thomas story, watch

Cops vs. Cameras: The
Killing of Kelly Thomas and the Power of New Media

How a Local Blog
Broke the Kelly Thomas Story: A conversation with Friends for
Fullerton’s Future

Outraged Fullerton
citizens react to Kelly Thomas beating tape

from Hit & Run

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