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Kelly Thomas: Defense demands proof police killed homeless man

 

An attorney representing two Fullerton police officers charged in the death of a mentally ill homeless man challenged a trauma surgeon Tuesday to review the graphic video of Kelly Thomas’ beating and pinpoint the moment when a police officer might have delivered a fatal blow.

Defense attorneys for the Fullerton officers are challenging whether it was the officers or the medics who later treated Thomas who caused his  death last July after the violent encounter outside a bus depot.

"Is there a particular act that actually had the effect?" asked John Barnett, the attorney for Manuel Ramos, one of the two officers charged in the case.

PHOTOS: Kelly Thomas death

UCI surgeon Michael Lekawa, however, said the damage was probably cumulative and that as more physical effort was used to subdue Thomas, who on the video is heard complaining of having difficulty breathing, it would lead to inadequate oxygen levels in the blood.

"It happened over time," said the head of trauma surgery at UCI.

Dist. Atty Tony Rackauckas, who is handling the prosecution’s case, objected to the repeated questions. "He says he cannot say moment by moment," the D.A. said.

Barnett continued showing snippets of the graphic video and, by the 19-minute mark in the 32-minute tape, the surgeon said that the moment might have been when the video showed an officer on Thomas' torso.

Lekawa said he believe "200 pounds of weight is enough" to cause chest compression and a deadly lack of oxygen.

The surgeon testified "he appears to be struggling to breathe" at the 20-minute mark in the video. At that moment, Thomas is shocked with a Taser and struck several times with the butt of the Taser by Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.

Cicinelli's attorney, Michael Schwartz, asked the surgeon whether he had heard of any player dying of a lack of oxygen during a football game after players piled on them.

Lekawa said he had not.

 Ramos and Cicinelli are charged in Kelly’s death -– Ramos with second-degree murder and Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Tuesday’s testimony comes a day after a dramatic video of Thomas’ encounter with police was shown in court.

The grainy black-and-white video of Thomas’ violent tangle with police is the centerpiece of the prosecution’s case that the officers escalated a standard police encounter with a homeless man into a fatal beating.

At one point, Thomas –- a 37-year-old mentally ill homeless man who was a familiar face in the city’s downtown -– screams out: “Dad, they are killing me.”

The video and the sound of fists and a baton connecting with Thomas was graphic enough that several spectators in the courtroom left, and the judge paused the video at one point as some in the audience began to groan. He cautioned that those who couldn’t watch the video should leave.

The case has rocked the north Orange County city, where scores of people have protested, staged memorials and held a recent birthday celebration for Thomas.

ALSO:

D.A. says race was motive in killing of football star Jamiel Shaw II

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--Richard Winton

L.A. NOW

Southern California -- this just in

Kelly Thomas: Defense demands proof police killed homeless man


   An attorney representing two Fullerton police officers charged in the death of a mentally ill homeless man challenged a trauma surgeon Tuesday to review the graphic video of Kelly Thomas’ beating and pinpoint the moment when a police officer might have delivered a fatal blow.

Defense attorneys for the Fullerton officers are challenging whether it was the officers or the medics who later treated Thomas who caused his  death last July after the violent encounter outside a bus depot.

"Is there a particular act that actually had the effect?" asked John Barnett, the attorney for Manuel Ramos, one of the two officers charged in the case.

PHOTOS: Kelly Thomas death

UCI surgeon Michael Lekawa, however, said the damage was probably cumulative and that as more physical effort was used to subdue Thomas, who on the video is heard complaining of having difficulty breathing, it would lead to inadequate oxygen levels in the blood.

"It happened over time," said the head of trauma surgery at UCI.

Dist. Atty Tony Rackauckas, who is handling the prosecution’s case, objected to the repeated questions. "He says he cannot say moment by moment," the D.A. said.

Barnett continued showing snippets of the graphic video and, by the 19-minute mark in the 32-minute tape, the surgeon said that the moment might have been when the video showed an officer on Thomas' torso.

Lekawa said he believe "200 pounds of weight is enough" to cause chest compression and a deadly lack of oxygen.

The surgeon testified "he appears to be struggling to breathe" at the 20-minute mark in the video. At that moment, Thomas is shocked with a Taser and struck several times with the butt of the Taser by Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.

Continue reading »

D.A. says race was motive in killing of football star Jamiel Shaw II

The 17-year-old football star’s skin was black and his backpack red.

Were it not for those colors, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday, Jamiel Shaw II might never have been murdered by an 18th Street gang member eager to earn his stripes. Deputy Dist. Atty. Allyson Ostrowski said that Pedro Espinoza, now 23, shot Shaw in 2008 in an execution manner thinking he was a member of the Bloods. 

Shaw, a running back and defensive back for Los Angeles High School, was killed in March of that year just a few houses away from his Arlington Heights home. His father heard the gunshots and ran out to find his son bleeding onto the pavement. Shaw was on his cellphone talking to his girlfriend, who heard a voice ask “Where are you from” before the phone went dead. 

In closing arguments Tuesday capping a weeklong trial, Ostrowski alleged that the voice belonged to Espinoza, who just 28 hours earlier had been released from custody after serving time for an earlier gang-related incident in which he threatened a man with a gun. Espinoza belonged to a clique that constituted the “most violent of the most violent” among 18th Street gang members, she said. 

In addition to numerous 18th Street tattoos, Espinoza had “BK” inked on the side of his neck -– standing for “Blood Killer,” the prosecutor told jurors. 

When Espinoza saw the red on Shaw’s Spider-Man backpack, Ostrowski said, he took him to be a member of the Rollin 20’s Bloods. And before Shaw could respond to his question, he shot Shaw in the stomach, then walked around his body and fired a second into his head, Ostrowski told jurors. 

“That second shot to Jamiel’s head, that’s an execution, that’s a demonstration of this defendant’s intent to kill,” she said. 

Attorneys for Espinoza are scheduled to give their closing arguments Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

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Photo: Jamiel Shaw II in family photo.

 

Steve Lopez: Austin Buetner was stirring things up at City Hall

Austin Beutner

When I met with him a few weeks ago, I asked Los Angeles mayoral candidate Austin Beutner if he really wanted to sacrifice time with his wife and four kids -– aged between 15 and 9 -– to devote full attention to the unimaginably demanding task of running the nation’s second-largest city.

Steve LopezHe told me he had discussed it with his wife and kids, thought he could do both jobs well at the same time, and that he wanted to show his kids that if you think you can perform a public service and improve the lives of others, you do it.

Now Beutner has suddenly dropped out of the race, saying in a statement, “my own needs at this time are for me to be engaged with my family in a way which is at odds with the demands of a campaign.”

 So what happened?

“For me, family comes first,” he said by phone just moments ago.

Neither his wife nor his kids asked him to get off the trail and come home, he said.

 “It’s mostly me. I mean, my kids were supportive and my wife has been supportive, and it was me saying, ‘Wait a minute.’ I knew it was a delicate balancing act, but with the passage of time and just a few telling moments,” he realized that when it comes to family, “you can’t put time back on the clock.”

Continue reading »

Austin Beutner confirms his exit from L.A. mayor's race

Austin Beutner

Former investment banker Austin Beutner has confirmed that he is abandoning his bid for Los Angeles mayor. In an email to supporters Tuesday afternoon, Beutner said he is dropping out of the race to spend more time with his family.

"It's a 110% commitment to be a candidate," Beutner said in an interview. "I don’t want to look back and wish I had spent more time with my kids."

He said his weak showing in recent opinion polls did not prompt the decision. A survey last month by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles found that only 2% of voters who had an opinion about the mayor's race said they would vote for him.

Beutner said he had been prepared to use his personal wealth to introduce himself to voters. "Name ID is relatively easy to buy and we had the resources to buy it," he said. "But it’s all about where I am right now, and where I need to be is with my family. "

Continue reading »

Hit-and-run suspect sought by police turns himself in

Steve SmithThe driver suspected of seriously injuring a 57-year-old Los Angeles woman and her 5-year-old foster son in a hit-and-run last week was arrested Monday after turning himself into authorities.

Steve Smith, 43, was booked in the Metropolitan Detention Center on felony charges of hit-and-run, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Detectives on Saturday sought the public’s help in finding Smith, a day after he allegedly hit the woman and child as they crossed Broadway at 41st Street. Investigators said the driver of the silver 1991 Toyota Previa initially stopped, but fled on foot before identifying himself or helping the pair, as required by law.

The woman and her son, whose names have not been released, were in stable condition at an area hospital following the incident, police said.

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— Kate Mather

twitter.com/katemather

Photo: Steve Smith. Credit: LAPD

L.A. renters' group fights Villaraigosa's bid to hike parking fines [Updated]

 
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