Kelly Thomas hearing: Court pores over video, photos from Fullerton homeless man's final moments

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, pool photo

A coroner's drawing indicates where various external injuries were observed on Kelly Thomas' body at the time of autopsy. WARNING: The following slideshow contains graphic images.

Joshua Sudock, The Orange County Register, Pool photo

Defense attorney John D. Barnett, who is representing Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos in the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man in Fullerton, questions a witness during Tuesday's preliminary hearing in Santa Ana.

Joshua Sudock, The Orange County Register, Pool photo

Defense attorney John D. Barnett, who is representing Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos in the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man, shows video footage from a surveillance camera that captured the incident and points out at several times that Ramos is working on retraining Thomas' feet or is overseeing the altercation rather than directly participating in the chest compression some believe ultimately cut off Thomas' airflow. Here, both the defense and prosecution agree that Ramos is the officer standing in the foreground with his back to the camera.

Joshua Sudock, The Orange County Register, Pool photo

Defense attorney John D. Barnett, who is representing Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos in the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man, shows video footage from a surveillance camera that captured the incident and points out at several times that Ramos is working on retraining Thomas' feet or is overseeing the altercation rather than directly participating in the chest compression some believe ultimately cut off Thomas' airflow. Here, both the defense and prosecution agree that Ramos is the officer standing on the left side of the frame.

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, pool photo

A medical examiner's photograph shows various wounds on Kelly Thomas' body at the time of autopsy.

Joshua Sudock, The Orange County Register, Pool photo

Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos listens to witness testimony during Tuesday's preliminary hearing in Santa Ana.

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, pool photo

Ron Thomas speaks to the media after Tuesday's preliminary hearing in Santa Ana.


The second day of the preliminary hearing began with defense attorney John Barnett, who represents Officer Manuel Ramos, resuming his cross-examination of Dr. Michael Lekawa.

Lekawa is the chief of the trauma unit at the UC Irvine Medical Center. He was at the Center when Kelly Thomas was brought there the evening of July 5, 2011. Barnett asked Lekawa whether intubation problems at St. Jude's Hospital might have contributed to Thomas' death.

"I read the St. Jude's medical records and they did not indicate any intubation problems," Lekawa responded.

Barnett followed by asking Lekawa whether CPR, which was used on Thomas in the ambulance by paramedics when they left the scene, might have caused Thomas to lose consciousness.

For the second day, the court reviewed portions of the video depicting the struggle between Fullerton police and Thomas shortly before his death. Ron Thomas, Kelly's father, again listened to his son screaming for help.

Barnett asked Dr. Lekawa to point out moments in that tape where he saw possible chest compressions, and to pinpoint the moment where Thomas stopped breathing.

"He was down, police officers were on top of him, he couldn't breathe and eventually stopped talking," said Lekawa.

As portions of the video were replayed again, Lekawa said he couldn't see clearly whether officers were compressing Thomas' chest.

"I can't tell," said Lekawa. "I see a police officer on top of him. They may be compressing his chest, I can't tell."

Lekawa told Barnett he could not break down the exact moments in the video leading to the cause of death.

"The effect of what occurred ultimately caused him to stop breathing and go into respiratory arrest," said Lekawa.

Lekawa explained the physical exertion of the struggle also contributed to reduced oxygen flow to Thomas' brain.

The questioning continued into whether specific actions by the police seen in the video may or may not have contributed to Thomas' demise.

Officer Jay Cicinelli's defense attorney began his cross-examination with the same line of questioning.

Later in the day, attorneys questioned the Orange County pathologist who performed the Thomas' autopsy. Dr. Aruna Singhania reviewed images from the report and identified the mentally ill homeless man's injuries.

Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, left the courtroom before the graphic photos were displayed. The photos brought gasps from some in the courtroom.

Defendant Cicinelli turned away and Ramos looked at the screen only once during the cross examination.

Ron Thomas: Footage "haunts me"

Following today's hearing, Ron Thomas held a press conference to offer his thoughts on the day's events.

"To hear Kelly and his screams for me to save him fade away, get lower in audio and further apart and then almost like a gurgle fade away into death calling for me," he said, referring to the video that has been the center of the hearing in the past several days. "That haunts me every day, it haunts me every night."

Ron Thomas then reiterated his call for the defendants to go to trial, adding that he would like to see Officer Joe Wolfe, another Fullerton police who was present at the time of Kelly Thomas' beating, tried as well. Wolfe was not charged for any crime following the beating.

The testimony will continue tomorrow.

Follow KPCC's Ed Joyce on Twitter for updates from today's preliminary hearing.

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