Two police officers in Fullerton, Calif., have been acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the beating death of a homeless schizophrenic man.
Charges against a third police office will not be pursued.
An Orange County jury Monday found Manuel Ramos not guilty of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, while Jay Cicinelli was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in the July 2011 beating of Kelly Thomas.
Throughout the trial, jurors were repeatedly shown surveillance video of the officers approaching Thomas at a crowded bus depot.
Prosecutors said they were seeing the officers grossly abusing their authority, beating Thomas with a baton and stun gun, even as he called for help. The defense argued the officers were trying to restrain Thomas as he reacted violently against them.
In the days following the confrontation, Thomas lay in a coma. He died five days later of brain damage from a lack of oxygen, caused by chest compression, and other injures.
The jury's not guilty verdict, after less than a full day of deliberation, left many stunned.
"They got away with murdering my son," said Cathy Thomas. "He was so innocent. It just isn't fair at all."
"I've never seen such a miscarriage of justice," Ron Thomas, Kelly's father, said. "It's so blatant. It means none of us are safe."
But an attorney for Ramos cheered the decision.
"These peace officers were doing their jobs," said defense attorney John Barnett. "They did what they were trained to do."
After the trial, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters he would be dropping charges against the a third officer, Joseph Wolfe.
"I don't intend to proceed with another trial when the two officers here were acquitted," Rackauckas said.
Public opinion seemed to echo the thoughts of Kelly Thomas' parents, as Fullerton residents bristled over a verdict the ACLU called "disappointing."
Members of Occupy LA called for protests at city police headquarters, while others demonstrated at the courtroom.
"Just because they wear a uniform and a badge doesn't give them the right to beat anybody like that," said Cindy Vann, at a homeless encampment behind the courthouse. "It's gonna get worse around us. If it was us, we'd be doing life right now."
Amid the anger, Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes called for citizens to respect the jury process.
He said the department had since taken "significant steps" to prevent such an incident from happening again, and to make the police force "the best department possible."
Warning: The video below, as shown to the jury, contains graphic violence and language.
[Los Angeles Times]
[Los Angeles Times]