Two Fullerton, California, policemen pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in the death of a homeless mentally ill man who was beaten and shocked with a Taser during an argument in July.
Fullerton Police Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were arrested for criminal violent confrontation which left the mentally ill man dead.
Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in connection with the beating of Kelly Thomas on July 5 in a videotaped altercation, whereas Corporal Jay Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in the incident.
Cicinelli was released on $25,000 bail on Wednesday but Ramos was still held till September 26 at the request of his attorneys as his bail was at $1 million.
The big shame about this case is that it didn't have to happen. It could have been avoided. It never should have happened, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in announcing the charges against Ramos and Cicinelli at a news conference in Santa Ana.
Thomas' father, Ron, urged the judge not to reduce Ramos' bail from $1 million because of the horrible manner in which my son was murdered, CNN reported.
Both the officers were to surrender their guns within 24 hours. Later on Wednesday morning Ramos and Cicinelli surrendered to Orange County District Attorney's Office investigators.
The Orange County prosecutor announced the charges on Wednesday.
The Orange County prosecutor said that Ramos, 37, will face a maximum of 15 years to life and Cicinelli, 39, will face up to four years in jail if they are found guilty in the trial.
“Ramos was familiar with Thomas and knew that the shirtless drifter posed no risk when he began questioning him over reports of vandalized cars near a Fullerton bus depot,” Rackauckas said.
Ramos, apparently angry that Thomas could not follow commands to sit on the ground with his legs outstretched, held up his fists and told the homeless man: Now you see my fists? They are getting ready to F--- you up, Reuters reported quoting Rackauckas.
That declaration was the turning point, the defining moment, Rackauckas said.
The incident went aggressive after Thomas rose to his feet and took a few steps away, his hands raised defensively, and Ramos swung his baton, knocked him to the ground and began punching him in the ribs, he said.
Five other policemen joined Ramos including Cicinelli, who kneed Thomas in the head, shocked him four times with a Taser and struck him in the face eight times with the device, Rackauckas said.
The argument was caught on videotape by a camera at the bus depot, prompting calls for the resignation of Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers.