As he watched a video of a homeless man being beaten by Fullerton police officers, a former FBI agent and use-of-force expert testified Monday that striking a suspect in the head with an impact weapon is considered deadly force and is not acceptable police procedure.
“That would not be good proper police procedure,” John Wilson testified as the surveillance tape of the 2011 police encounter with Kelly Thomas was played and paused. “An impact weapon to the head is going to cause serious bodily injuries.”
Wilson, a 26-year FBI veteran, was called by prosecutors to review the actions of former Fullerton officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli. Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter.
Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man who was a frequent figure on the streets of Fullerton, died five days after being beaten by police at the city’s bustling transportation center.
As the video of Thomas’ clash with police was played and paused, Wilson, a retired FBI agent who oversaw tactical training, was asked by prosecutors to give his opinions on the officer’s actions.
Under questioning from Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, Wilson said, “Those strikes to the head would be in excess of what a reasonable officer in this position would use to gain control of the situation.” But the response was struck from the record after an objection by John Barnett, Ramos’ attorney.
Wilson also testified that when the video captures Ramos putting on a pair of white latex gloves and threatening to punch Thomas, it was a show of force by the officer.
“It indicates there’s going to be contact made or blood or some body fluid may be exposed as a result of a violent contact,” Wilson said.
In the video, Ramos puts on the gloves and tells Thomas, “See these fists? They’re getting ready to f--- you up.”
Prosecutors have identified the moment as the point at which the encounter went from routine to deadly.
Wilson, who is getting paid $200 an as an expert witness, said he oversaw tactical training as an FBI agent and from 2001 to 2007 was on protection detail for John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales when they served as U.S. attorney general.