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Kelly Thomas video: Homeless man beaten as he cried for help

May 7, 2012 |  6:56 pm
On the ground and screaming that he’s “sorry,” Kelly Thomas is hit again and again with fists, a baton and finally the butt of a stun gun by Fullerton police officers in a dramatic video that was shown for the first time Monday in an Orange County courtroom where two patrolman are charged with murder and manslaughter.

The grainy black-and-white video, which includes audio from a recording device one of the officers wore on his belt, shows Thomas repeatedly being struck outside the Fullerton bus depot July 5.

Thomas died several days later.

PHOTOS: Kelly Thomas dies after run-in with Fullerton police

At one point, Thomas – a mentally ill homeless man who was a familiar face in the city’s downtown  – screams:  "Dad, they are killing me."

The video and the sound of fists and a baton connecting with Thomas were graphic enough that several spectators in the courtroom left and the judge paused the video at one point as people in the crowd groaned.

Two officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, are charged in Kelly's death. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Monday’s preliminary hearing, which continues Tuesday, is being held to determine whether there’s enough evidence to order the officers to stand trial – Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Attorneys for the officers sought to portray Thomas’ subsequent medical treatment as the reason for his death rather than his violent encounter with police.

John Barnett. Michael Ramos" attorney, asked a fire captain and a trauma surgical chief whether doctors struggled to clear an airway when treating Thomas.

"The cause of death might be the treatment he got the hospital?" Barnett asked UC Irvine surgical trauma chief Michael Lekawa.

Lekawa testified that paramedics told him the staff at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton had struggled to get an air tube in Thomas but testified when he checked out the actual reports they indicated otherwise.

Under cross-examination, however, Lekawa acknowledged that he made prosecutors aware of the medical issues because "I wanted to make sure a police officer wasn't blamed for medical mishap at St.Jude's. I didn't want a police officer to be blamed..."

The video shown in court begins with Thomas being detained, uncooperative to a point at which officer Ramos appears to grow angry. "See these fists," the officer can be heard saying. "They're getting ready to f--- you up," he adds after putting on a pair of gloves.

A short time later, Ramos can be seen hitting Thomas with his baton and heard saying, "get on the ground."

Thomas repeatedly apologizes to Ramos and a second officer. "I am sorry, dude. I can't breathe, dude," Thomas says.

One of the officers can be seen kneeing the 37-year-old homeless man. "I cannot breathe, man," Thomas says on the video as Ramos tells him to relax.

Some of the struggle is obscured by a tree, but a Taser can be heard, apparently stunning Thomas, whose legs appear to wiggle. Thomas' voice gets lower and lower as the encounter continues.

"Dad, they're killing me," he says.

By the time the confrontation ends, Thomas is lying in a pool of blood. Officers appear to be examining  their own wounds as they stand near Thomas, who is handcuffed and on the ground.

"You are covered in blood, dude," one officer can be heard saying to another.

Cicinelli adds: "He is the one you're gonna need to look at."

--Richard Winton, reporting from Orange County