The Orange County, Calif. police officers responsible for the death of homeless schizophrenic Kelly Thomas were found not guilty in their murder trial Monday.
Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli–former officers with the Fullerton, Calif. police department–were charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, respectively. The jury deliberated for less than a full day before finding them not guilty, Los Angeles Times reported.
Given the acquittals, prosecutors have decided not to pursue charges against a third officer involved in Thomas’s death.
The brutal incident took place on the night of July 5, 2011. Police were called to the scene to deal with Thomas, who was accused by a local by a local restaurant worker of attempting to break into cars. According to video footage from a surveillance camera, Ramos threatened to beat up Thomas, and eventually attacked with a police baton. Cicinelli soon joined in. He attempted to subdue Thomas with a taser, but eventually hit him in the head with the butt of his gun. Video footage shows the cops piling on Thomas, who can be heard repeatedly crying out for help.
Thomas’s last words before passing out were, “Dad, they are killing me.” He was taken to a hospital but never regained consciousness, and died five days later.
Doctors concluded that Thomas died of injuries sustained during the beating.
Why then the acquittals? Defense attorneys argued that Thomas could have died from heart disease brought on by his history of illicit drug abuse. They also argued that the officers used routine procedures to restrain a particularly large and threatening individual.
But many civil libertarians are outraged that Ramos and Cicinelli will not serve in time in prison for Thomas’s death.
Kelly’s father, Ron Thomas, was furious at the ruling.
“What was he doing but begging for his life that he deserved to get beat in the face with a deadly weapon?” asked Thomas in a statement to local news. “They never said, ‘Kelly, have you had enough?’ He would have certainly said ‘yes’ because he was begging for his life.”