An Orange County jury Monday found two former Fullerton police officers accused of killing a schizophrenic homeless man, Kelly Thomas, not guilty.
Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were charged with striking Kelly Thomas with a baton and a stun gun in a beating that left him comatose. He died five days later.
[Updated at 4:25 p.m.: Ramos, Cicinelli and their families were swiftly escorted out of the courtroom.
Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas’ father, said he was stunned by the verdict, saying he’d never seen such a miscarriage of justice.
Thomas also suggested that federal authorities should look into the case.
Ramos’ attorney, John Barnett, told reporters: “These peace officers were doing their jobs...they did what they were trained to do.”
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas said prosecutors would not pursue charges against a third Fullerton officer accused in the Thomas case. That officer’s trial was pending.
“I don’t intend to proceed with another trial when the two officers here were acquitted,” he told reporters.
The jury took less than a full day of deliberation to reach the not-guilty verdicts.
Rackauckas told jurors the former officers had abused their authority on the July evening when they confronted Thomas.
Ramos was facing second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges, and Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force under the color of authority.
The incident, captured on surveillance tape, was shown repeatedly during the trial, but each side drew different conclusions as to what it showed.
Prosecutors said the video captured a real-time homicide with the officers beating a homeless man, even as he called out for help. Defense attorneys said it showed two policeman trying to restrain a violent suspect who possessed abnormal strength.
The coroner’s office determined that Thomas died of brain damage from lack of oxygen caused by chest compression and other injuries sustained during his struggle with police.
Defense attorneys suggested that Thomas’ death could be tied to a diseased heart damaged by previous drug use.