The father of Kelly Thomas told reporters Tuesday that he viewed a jury's decision to acquit two Fullerton police officers in the beating death of his son as one setback in a "prize fight" in which there are still "several rounds to go."
Two former Fullerton police officers were found not guilty Monday in the beating death that was captured on film, and charges against a third officer will be dropped.
Ron Thomas, Kelly's father and a former sheriff's deputy, said at a news conference that the verdict was in no way the last word.
“I look at this like a prize fight," he said. "It’s not over, we still have several rounds to go.”
Thomas appeared at the news conference with attorney Garo Mardirossian, who said a civil case the family was planning to bring would expose another jury to far more testimony. He and Ron Thomas argued that prosecutors, led by Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, were hamstrung by a court ruling limiting jurors' access to a "full case" against the officers.
Although Rackauckas "gave it his best," at a civil trial "there will be a different result," Mardirossian said.
The verdict in the criminal case came after nearly three weeks of testimony from 25 witnesses in an often-packed Santa Ana courtroom. At the heart of the trial was a 33-minute surveillance video, synced with audio from recorders worn by officers.
Asked what he would ask jurors given the chance, Thomas said: “I would want to know how they came to the not-guilty verdict. I’m puzzled and I think that’s a fair question.”
Monday night, dozens of people gathered at the Fullerton transit depot not far from where Kelly Thomas was beaten by police in the summer of 2011.
Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles field office, said the agency opened a civil rights investigation into the case in 2011. Now that the state court trial has concluded, she said, "investigators will examine the evidence and testimony to determine if further investigation is warranted at the federal level."
Mardirossian said that, depending on what federal officials decide to do with the case, the family plans to file its civil case in six to 12 months.
Even so, Ron Thomas said, "it's all about the criminal case."
"I will not stop until we get justice for Kelly," he said.