Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli were ordered on Wednesday to stand trial on charges related to the death of Kelly Thomas, a Fullerton homeless man who died last July after a violent encounter with police.
After a three-day preliminary hearing, the Judge Walter Schwarm ordered the men to appear in court on May 22, saying there was "sufficient and probable cause Ramos and Cicinelli are responsible for crimes for which they are charged."
Schwarm's ruling will mean that Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos could stand trial on second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas. Corporal Jay Cicinelli will be tried on charges of involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.
The hearing had been laced with emotional evidence, including a 33-minute-long security video of the incident mixed with sound from the officers' recorders.
Kelly Thomas’ father Ron said he was overwhelmed as he heard the judge’s decision.
It's "the start of a new journey," Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly Thomas, who had appeared every day at the preliminary hearing. "It's the first step in a long battle, it's a war."
Ramos' attorney almost immediately said he would seek a review of Judge Schwarm's ruling, saying, "We don't expect to go to trial."
Orange County DA Tony Rackauckas, who prosecuted the hearing himself, said "incidents like this are damaging to community because it erodes trust."
Rackauckas said expects more than one such review – and a jury trial. He also added that other officers could face charges in the incident.
“We’re not done with the investigation," he said. "Everything’s open and we’re still considering all of the evidence.”
If a jury convicts them, Ramos could face up to 15 years in prison and Cicinelli, up to four.
The two are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges May 22 in Santa Ana Superior Court.