(Updates with quotes from news conference)
By Dan Whitcomb and Dana Feldman
LOS ANGELES Jan 14 The FBI plans to re-examine
the fatal beating of a mentally ill California transient after a
jury acquitted two ex-policemen of all charges in connection
with his 2011 death, which touched off protests and political
upheaval in the city of Fullerton.
An Orange County Superior Court jury in Santa Ana found
former Fullerton police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli
not guilty on Monday of charges stemming from the death of
37-year-old Kelly Thomas, capping a sensational monthlong trial.
Prosecutors had accused Ramos and Cicinelli, who approached
Thomas near a bus depot to question him about reports of
vandalized cars, of turning a routine law enforcement encounter
into an unnecessary and savage bludgeoning that cost the unarmed
homeless man his life.
Ramos, 39, was charged with second-degree murder and
involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli, 41, was charged with
involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.
Defense lawyers won acquittals in the case by arguing at
trial that Thomas was dangerous and that the officers responded
according to their training. They also said the transient
suffered from a weak heart brought on by drug abuse.
"In 2011, the FBI opened an investigation to determine if
Mr. Thomas' civil rights were violated during an altercation
with Fullerton police officers," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller
said in a statement on Tuesday.
"With the conclusion of the state court trial, investigators
will examine the evidence and testimony to determine if further
investigation is warranted at the federal level," Eimiller said.
Thomas' brutal beating as he was subdued by six Fullerton
officers was caught on a surveillance camera at the bus station
and led to angry street demonstrations in Fullerton, 30 miles
(48 kilometers)southeast of Los Angeles, as well as the ouster
of three city council members in a recall election.
'IT'S NOT OVER'
On the videotape, Ramos is seen strapping latex gloves on
his hands, balling them into fists in Thomas's face and telling
the drifter, whom he knew from previous encounters: "You see
these fists? They are getting ready to f--- you up."
By the end of the tape, Thomas can be heard screaming for
help as officers swarm over him, delivering multiple blows and
shocks with a stun gun. He is heard calling dozens of times for
his father to help him, yelling: "Daddy, they're killing me."
Father Ron Thomas, speaking to reporters on Tuesday
afternoon, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute
Ramos and Cicinelli and said he would not abandon a civil
lawsuit he filed against the officers, Fullerton Police
Department and the city.
"It's very important that the federal government find reason
to charge them and bring them into federal court," said the
elder Thomas, a former Orange County Sheriff's deputy who had
earlier described himself as "disgusted" by the verdicts.
"I look at this like a prize fight. It's not over. We still
have several rounds to go and we've been stopped so far, but I
will not stop until we get justice for Kelly."
An attorney for Ron Thomas, Garo Mardirossian, said he had
already subpoenaed all six Fullerton officers involved in the
melee to give depositions in the case and would put them on the
witness stand in the civil case.
Ramos and Cicinelli did not testify in their own defense
during the criminal trial.
The city of Fullerton has already agreed to pay $1 million
to Thomas's mother in a negotiated settlement of any claims she
might have brought in her son's death. The victim's parents are
divorced and litigating separately.
In 2012, Fullerton's acting chief of police posthumously
exonerated Thomas of any wrongdoing in connection with the
confrontation, saying he was cleared of any suspicion that he
provoked the violent struggle that led to his death.
(Reporting by Dana Feldman and Dan Whitcomb, writing by Dan
Whitcomb; editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)