A crime scene investigator testified Wednesday that two Fullerton police officers seemed exhausted and shaken after a violent encounter with a mentally ill homeless man who died days after being beaten by the policemen.
Dawn Scruggs, a veteran forensic specialist, said one of the officers involved in the clash, Manuel Ramos, told her immediately after the incident that it had been “the fight of his life.”
The former officers, Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, are now standing trial in the death of Kelly Thomas. Ramos is charged with second-degree murder; Cincinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Scruggs, testifying in the third day of the trial, said that when she arrived on the scene of the 2011 beating, Ramos was slumped over the front of a police cruiser holding the right side of his ribcage.
“He said he was in the fight of his life,” Scruggs said. “He had never had anyone fight that way before.”
Scruggs said she also approached Cicinelli, who also appeared to be tired and shaken after the fight.
“He said he used a Taser a couple of times, but it had no effect and [Thomas] would just not stop fighting,” Scruggs said.
The crime scene investigator said she responded to scene because there had been a series of Code 3s, in which an officer calls for emergency assistance.
“I needed to make sure my guys are OK,” said Scruggs, who was given the go-ahead to start collecting evidence about an hour and 15 minutes after she arrived at the city’s transportation center, where the beating took place.
Scruggs said she took photos of the scene, including scrapes, bumps and bruises the officers had sustained in the struggle. Ramos had an injury to his left elbow and right knee, Scruggs said, and Cicinelli said he had injured his right thumb.
Capt. Ron Stancyk, a Fullerton Fire Department paramedic who transported Thomas to the hospital, said no one at the scene told him to treat the injured homeless man. He said he gave antiseptic wipes to another person at the scene before he noticed the shirtless Thomas on the ground.
“I turned to the right and noticed there was an individual down,” Stancyk said. “I did not hear any direction.”
He said Thomas was breathing slowly and had a pulse when he was lifted into an ambulance and taken to St. Jude Medical Center.
However, he said, Thomas flat-lined halfway to the hospital and a doctor intubated Thomas to clear his airway. Thomas was then taken to UCI Medical Center where he died five days later.
John Barnett, Ramos’ attorney, asked the paramedic if a patient who is yelling or screaming would still be able to breathe.
“If you were trying to assess their problems you wouldn’t think that breathing was one of them?” Barnett asked.
Stancyk said breathing would not be a concern.
In the 33-minute video of the fight between Thomas and police the homeless man screams out to his father — “Dad, they’re killing me” — and, repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”
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