Cops Caught on Video Beating Homeless Man to Death Won’t Go to Prison

Written by Aviva Shen

Two former police officers in Orange County, Calif., were acquitted of murder Monday for beating a schizophrenic homeless man, Kelly Thomas, to death. After watching a harrowing video showing Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, along with other officers, brutalizing Thomas, the jury spent less than a day deliberating to find the two men not guilty.

In July 2011, the Fullerton cops came upon the 37-year-old schizophrenic taking some letters out of a trashcan and started beating him with a taser and a baton. The entire encounter was caught on a nearby security camera. The recording shows Ramos putting on a pair of latex gloves and telling Thomas: “See these fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up.” As the officers hit him, Thomas begged for help and called out for his father. Cicinelli arrived later, tasing Thomas with a stun gun and then struck him across the face with it hard enough to break several bones. “I just probably smashed his face to hell,” he says on the video. Thomas went unconscious and died five days later. Ramos and Cicinelli were fired about a year after the assault.

The defense attorneys argued Thomas had fought back, forcing the officers’ to subdue him, and that he died not of his injuries but of a heart condition exacerbated by long-term drug use. As a result of the not guilty verdict, the Orange County District Attorney has also decided not to pursue charges against a third officer, telling reporters, “I don’t intend to proceed with another trial when the two officers here were acquitted.”

Protesters took to the streets Monday night after the verdict came out, chanting “Justice for Kelly Thomas” and “We saw the video” outside the Fullerton Police Department.

The verdict has already sparked national outrage, but Ramos’ and Cicinelli’s fates are hardly unusual. While stories of police brutality are all too common, accused officers rarely face a courtroom, let alone prison time. Even video footage isn’t a guarantee the offender will face consequences; in one case from November, a Chicago cop was caught on tape standing over an unarmed man and shooting at him 16 times, but was never charged with a crime. In another creative twist, New York City prosecutors recently charged an unarmed mentally ill man with assault because police shot several bystanders while aiming for him.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Michael T.
Michael T4 years ago

Code of Silence

When an officer is in trouble on the job or in trouble with his wife or girlfriend at home, he counts on his buddies to cover for him. He gives them a story that explains why he "had to do" whatever he did. Whether or not they personally condone his behavior, they may rationalize his behavior, saying he was stressed out, under a lot of pressure, or quite simply, that he's only human.

They repeat his version of the story and they stick to that version. They put themselves on the line with their fellow officer. Whether testifying in court or smoothing things out at home, the rules are simple for them:

Say as little as possible.

Answer only the question asked.

Don't give details.

Deny all accusations.

Say "I don't remember, I didn't see that, or I don't know."

Michael T.
Michael T4 years ago

The Brotherhood

Good vs Bad Guys

The police personality serves to insulate officers from the rest of society. It fosters an "us versus them" mentality. The cops are the good guys and everyone else is a potential bad guy. There is a constant power struggle between the good and bad guys. Police believe that societal order depends on the good guys winning — at any cost.

When anyone challenges the police, the police defend their right to enforce control and authority. Officers must trust each other to provide assistance and back-up in their struggle to maintain control. They develop strong bonds of loyalty that ensure they will be there for each other.

Michael T.
Michael T4 years ago

The average police patrol officer’s salary (constituting the 25th through the 75th percentile) is between 42,000 and 60,000 per year. The average for that is around 51,000 a year. There are of course variations from state to state. In the 10th percentile it is around 30,000 and the 90th percentile is around 68,000. This info was from

Then there is this...

NYPD Threw Truth-Telling Cop in Psycho Ward for 6 Days, and Tried to Talk Victims out of Reporting Crimes for Better Stats

It doesn't just happen with the NYPD either

Ron C.
Ron C4 years ago

Most of society really needs to wake up to this problem....the respect and trust given to police is mostly unwarranted...they are paid plenty for the job they do and we should expect more from them.

Ron C.
Ron C4 years ago

Every police officer who has turned a blind eye to a fellow officer breaking the law is part of the problem.
There is a culture within the police that they are unaccountable and above the law...and the seeds of that begin with little things like stopping someone for speeding and then not ticketing them because they flash thier badge for the free pass.
I think the critical mass is being reached in which there is no longer room in a police department for a good cop as they are hopelessly outnumbered by the bad cops..this better get addressed soon if it isnt already too late.
I have said for sometime now that a defence attorney isnt very good if he cant convincing argue that a cop's word cant be taken at face value as there is plenty of evidence of cops much injustice is done because a cop's word has more weight than the accused.
Here in Canada they were debating putting dash cams in all police cars but the police would only allow it if they had the latitude to edit the tapes before turning them in...can anyone imagine the arrogance of that position.

Manuela C.
Manuela C4 years ago

What's wrong with people???

Amanda S.
Amanda S4 years ago

Serial sadist with a badge = cop.

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore4 years ago

I hope these two "cops" get beat to death!

Angela Ray
Angela Ray4 years ago

Cops are cowards these days. Picking on helpless, defenseless citizens instead of going after the real criminals.

William & Katri D.
Katie & Bill D4 years ago

How awful for this to happen! Thank You