Never-before-seen surveillance footage of the beating of Kelly Thomas, a Fullerton, Calif. homeless man with schizophrenia, was revealed Monday during a hearing to determine if the police officers involved in the altercation that led to his death will face trial.
The 33-minute video starts with Thomas being approached by Fullerton Police Department Officer Manuel Ramos, who engages him in conversation. By minute 15, Ramos has already donned latex gloves.
"You see my fists?" Ramos asks Thomas. "They're getting ready to fuck you up."
"Start punching, dude!" responds Thomas, who was sitting on the ground. When Thomas stands up to walk away, a second police officer hits him repeatedly with a baton. The first few minutes of the altercation are off-screen, but the audio shows Thomas verbally giving up.
"I'm sorry, dude! I'm sorry," Thomas said. But the blows continue. At minute 16:30, the trio comes back into focus, and both police officers are on top of Thomas.
"I can't breathe dude, I can't breathe!" protests Thomas. "Please, I can't breathe!" Throughout, officers keep telling him to put his hands behind his back.
At minute 18, a back-up police car arrives at the scene and at least one more officer joins in. This is when the tasering starts, amid police requests to "stop resisting." After more prolonged tasers, Thomas is wailing and multiple officers are piled on top of him.
At minute 20, Thomas cries out to his father, who isn't there: "Dad! Dad! Dad! Help me, help me Dad!"
The video ends with emergency responders removing Thomas from the scene, who is now unconscious.
The officers involved in the altercation surround him, discussing what had just happened.
"We ran out of options so I got the end of my Taser and I probably ... I just start smashing his face to hell," says Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, according to the transcript provided by prosecutors. "He was on something. Cause the three of us couldn't even control him."
The video shown on Monday seems to confirm what many Fullerton residents have been saying for almost a year now: that police used excessive force to subdue Thomas.
THE DETAILS OF THE CASE
On July 5, 2011, Fullerton police officers responded to a call about someone breaking into cars at a local bus depot. Officers encountered Thomas, a shirtless, unarmed transient, and asked to search his backpack.
According to police, Thomas refused to submit to a search and became combative, requiring six officers to subdue him. During the altercation, Thomas sustained severe head and neck injuries and had lost consciousness by the time medics were on the scene.
After five days in a coma at the UC Irvine Medical Center, Thomas' family made the decision to remove him from life support.
The coroner later determined that Thomas died from mechanical compression of the thorax, which made it impossible for him to breathe normally and deprived his brain of oxygen. The autopsy also showed he had multiple broken bones in his face and several cracked ribs.
While Thomas was in a coma, his father Ron Thomas revealed that Kelly suffered from schizophrenia. His sister Christina Kinser described him as a "quiet, gentle soul."
Officer Ramos and Cpl. Cicinelli are the only two policemen charged in the beating death of Thomas. Ramos is charged with one count each of second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli is charged with one count each of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.
Currently, the FBI is investigating whether Thomas' civil rights were violated, and the city of Fullerton is also conducing its own internal probe, reports the Associated Press.
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