A former Fullerton police officer charged with the murder of a mentally ill homeless man had encountered the man seven times before the fatal clash and should have known his mental state, a prosecutor said.
The Orange County Register reported late Tuesday that deputy district attorney Keith Bogardus is seeking to introduce evidence of the encounters at the trial of former officer Manuel Ramos.
In a motion filed Monday, Bogardus wrote that recordings of Ramos' conversations with Kelly Thomas in the 30 months prior to the fatal 2011 confrontation show Thomas had trouble understanding instructions.
"The prior conversations between Ramos and Thomas demonstrate that the defendant knew (or at least should have known) that Thomas suffered a mental disability," Bogardus wrote.
Ramos' lawyer John Barnett said his client did not connect Thomas to any previous contact during the July 2011 incident.
Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in Thomas' death. Opening statements in the trial of Ramos and former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter and assault, are scheduled for Dec. 2.
A third former officer charged in the incident will be tried separately.
Prosecutors say Thomas was a victim of police brutality when officers used excessive force in the confrontation with him. Thomas died five days later.
Barnett said he wants to introduce evidence of other contacts Thomas had with authorities since 1996 because they show he attempted to mislead police.
"We are saying that Kelly Thomas fled and fought for a different reason," Barnett told the newspaper, "and that reason is that he was disguising his identity — as he had many times before — because he didn't want to go to jail."