Update 1:30 a.m EST Tuesday: The FBI said Monday night that it would examine evidence in the Kelly Thomas police beating death trial to "see if further investigation is warranted," the Los Angeles Times reported.
The bureau launched an investigation in 2011 to determine whether Thomas' civil rights were violated when he was beaten by officers after being stopped for questioning at a Fullerton, Calif., transit depot. He died five days later.
"With the conclusion of the state court trial, investigators will examine the evidence and testimony to determine whether further investigation is warranted at the federal level," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller in Los Angeles said in a statement.
An Orange County, Calif., jury on Monday acquitted two former Fullerton police officers of killing Kelly Thomas, a homeless man, the Los Angeles Times reported. Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were found not guilty of beating Thomas into a coma. He died five days later.
The Thomas case made headlines in 2011 with photographs of his unrecognizable face, bruised and beaten and wrapped in gauze as he clung to life in a hospital with a tube coming out of his mouth, the Orange County Register noted. The public was shocked.
Thomas suffered from schizophrenia and his father, Ron, maintained that he didn’t understand the order police were giving him, the Associated Press wrote. Officers were called to the scene on July 5, 2011, when Thomas was seen jiggling car door handles. They suspected he was in possession of stolen property when letters belonging to an attorney were found, but it was later determined that the attorney had thrown them out and Thomas found them in the trash. He failed to comply with orders when Ramos questioned him and tried to run away. That’s when things got brutal.
Prosecutors showed video footage during the trial of Thomas desperately calling for help as he was beaten with batons and stricken with a stun gun. Defense attorneys, however, said it showed the officers doing their best to restrain a violent suspect who had abnormal strength.
The coroner's office determined that the injuries Thomas sustained during the assault caused his death. He died of asphyxiation, which was caused by chest compression and other injuries. Defense attorneys claimed the death could have resulted from a heart condition stemming from Thomas’ previous drug use.
Ron Thomas was stunned when he heard the verdict on his son's killing and said it was a miscarriage of justice. He suggested federal authorities look into the case. According to the Associated Press, he said the defense “lied… constantly” about his son’s character. "It's carte blanche for police officers everywhere to beat us, kill us" because the verdict proves "they'll get away with it."
The victim's mother, Cathy Thomas, was also shocked. "Just horrified," she said. "He got away with murdering my son. It's just not fair. So I guess it's legal to go out and kill now. He was so innocent. It just isn't fair at all."
The courtroom was packed with dozens of supporters for Thomas who call themselves “Kelly’s Army" and wore yellow ribbons. The Orange County Register wrote the courtroom yelled a collective "No!" when Romas and Cicinelli were found not guilty.
There was reportedly a third officer who was involved in the beating, but Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said prosecutors wouldn’t pursue charges after Monday’s results in court. "I don't intend to proceed with another trial when the two officers here were acquitted," he told reporters, according to the LA Times.
It took the jury a full day to reach the not-guilty verdicts. Ramos, 39, had faced second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges, while Cicinelli, 41, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force under the color of authority.
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