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Officer's attorney blames Kelly Thomas for deadly altercation

Attorney John Barnett, left, and Officer Manuel Ramos

The defense attorney for a Fullerton police officer charged with murder in connection with the death of homeless man Kelly Thomas sought to portray Thomas as a violent criminal who was ultimately responsible for the struggle with six officers that led to his death.

"I believe none of the officers were responsible. Lethal force was the result of Kelly's actions," John Barnett, attorney for Officer Manuel Ramos, said at a news conference after his client's arraignment.

Ramos pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. The judge left his bail at $1 million.

Barnett specifically referenced Thomas' 1995 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon, although he would not say if his client knew about that conviction when he approached Thomas. In court, he said that even Thomas' parents were afraid of him.

Barnett also defended Ramos' behavior when he approached Thomas, including a moment when he allegedly displayed his fists to Thomas and said "they are getting ready to f— you up." Barnett said that threatening a noncompliant suspect was neither a violation of department policy nor a crime.

From the time of Ramos' arrest, Barnett has argued that the murder charge will have a chilling effect on all police officers.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, took issue with all of Barnett's statements.

"Every police officer knows you can't threaten to beat someone up," Rackauckas said. "You can't say 'I'm going to f— you up.'"

He also pointed out that Kelly's assault conviction was 17 years ago, and that there was no indication the officers were aware of it when they approached him on the night of July 5 while investigating a report of attempted car break-ins at the Fullerton Transportation Center.

He also disagreed with Barnett's statement that the case would have a chilling effect on other officers.

Ron Thomas said he was pleased with the judge's decision to leave Ramos' bail set at $1 million, and contrary to Barnett's statement, that he had never been afraid of his son.

The judge ordered Ramos to be moved from the Orange County central jail in Santa Ana to the Santa Ana city jail, largely because of the costs associated with keeping the officer in isolation at the central jail. Ramos' next appearance is set for Nov. 4.

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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos talks with his attorney, John Barnett, during his arraignment in Santa Ana on Monday. Credit: Paul Bersebach / Associated Press

 
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