The verdict acquitting two Fullerton police officers in the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man, leaves behind the bitter taste of a sense of injustice.
Only the jurors who made the decision know which factors they took into account. Anyone who has ever been a juror knows that there is a big difference between external perceptions and what you must consider, given the judge’s instructions and the limitations of the case.
At any rate, it is tough to release former police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli of all responsibility in the death of a schizophrenic homeless man like Thomas. The surveillance video bears witness to the incident but has limited reach. It cannot be said that it provides a complete portrait of what happened that night; however, what can be seen is enough to make anyone shudder.
For more than 34 minutes, the video shows how what seemed like a peaceful encounter between police and a homeless person degenerated into a beating. We hear that Thomas had a hard time following instructions and see that the one who threw the first punch, which led to another and subsequent tasering, was a police officer.
This does not mean that the officers are guilty of involuntary manslaughter; the jury said they were not. But we can see the excessive use of force, which is also evident in Thomas’ picture taken in the hospital. The worst part is that the one who suffered this brutality was someone with mental issues, who had trouble following orders, as the video shows.
This incident calls for proper police training to deal with people with mental disabilities. Clubbing and tasering them is not the way. Ramos and Cicinelli are free, as fits the verdict. Nevertheless, their dismissal from the police force speaks for itself. Now it is all up to a federal investigation into the violation of Thomas’ civil rights.