Crime & Justice

Kelly Thomas trial update: Paramedic testifies Thomas' heart stopped following police beating

Orange County District Atty. Tony Rackauckas shows the jury an image of Taser gun like the one that ex-Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli is alleged to have used to strike Kelly Thomas during an altercation at the Fullerton Transportation Center in 2011.
Orange County District Atty. Tony Rackauckas shows the jury an image of Taser gun like the one that ex-Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli is alleged to have used to strike Kelly Thomas during an altercation at the Fullerton Transportation Center in 2011.
Bruce Chambers/AP

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Update 2:15 p.m.: Following amid-morning break, the trial of Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli resumed with Ramos' attorney John Barnett's cross-examination of Fullerton police crime scene investigator Dawn Scruggs.

Barnett asked Scruggs why she showed up at the Fullerton Transportation Center when she was not called to the scene of the altercation between police and Kelly Thomas.

Scruggs testified when she heard a third "Code 3" call on her police radio, she headed to the scene.

Police use the term “Code 3” to ask for additional assistance. 

"I'm going there to make sure my guys are good," Scruggs said. "There was a sense of urgency in the second call, and you can hear a struggle," she said.

Scruggs testified that Ramos, Cicinelli and fellow Fullerton police officer Joe Wolfe were "tired" when she took photos of them and their injuries at the scene.

"I wouldn't describe him of being in shock, but in a state of 'disbelief' not really in a state of shock," testified Scruggs when asked about Cicinelli's condition.

Judge William Froeberg asked Scruggs if her opinion of Cicinelli's condition was based on medical or “laymen's terms” and asked about her medical training. 

"Laymen's terms,” Scruggs responded. “He just looked like 'Oh my god, what just happened?'"

Scruggs said it was Cicinelli who called a police dispatcher to request paramedics for Thomas. 

The second witness Wednesday was Fullerton Fire Department Paramedic Ron Stancyk. Stancyk, his partner, whom he called "the patient man," and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) treated Kelly Thomas at the scene. 

Upon arrival, Stancyk said, they first checked the condition of the officers before moving on to Thomas. Stancyk said Thomas was sitting on the ground with his "head down and lurched forward." But on cross examination from Cicinelli's attorney Michael Schwartz, Stancyk said an EMT was the first person to start treating Thomas. 

"I directed the EMT to use a scope (EKG machine) to check his heart," Stancyk said. "He had a large amount of blood in his beard, on his face and chest so we had to put the EKG leads on his back," said Stancyk, a 29-year veteran of the Fullerton Fire Department and a paramedic for 24 of those years. 

Stancyk testified that Thomas had a "slow rate of breathing, a pulse rate of 60 and blood in his nose."

But Stancyk said Thomas' breathing "was not normal."

"I told the EMT to clear his (Thomas) airway," Stancyk said. "His pulse, blood pressure improved, he was breathing and he was a viable patient."

Stancyk said because of the possibility of neck or head injury to Thomas,  a "C-collar was placed around his neck and we rolled him onto a backboard, transferred him to a gurney and took him to the ambulance."

Asst. District Atty. Jim Tanizaki asked Stancyk whether Thomas  was “responsive” when he first saw him.

Stancyk: "No."

From the Fullerton Transportation Center, Stancyk and his crew headed to St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton. But Stancyk said, halfway to the hospital, Thomas’ breathing “stopped."

Stancyk: "We used CPR and then brought him into the hospital."

Tanizaki: "Did he regain consciousness when you were with him?"

Stancyk: "No."

Once at the hospital, Stancyk testified that hospital personnel  "intubated [Thomas] as soon as he was brought in,  and I was kicked out."

He said Thomas' condition was "stabilized" and he was ready to be transferred to the UC Irvine trauma center in Orange.

Stancyk: "He had a pulse, blood pressure and we assisted his breathing [during the 14 minute trip to the UC Irvine facility].”

Stancyk then testified he described Thomas' condition to people at the trauma center.

"They take over and that's the end of our responsibility," Stancyk said.

Tanizaki showed Stancyk photos taken of Thomas at the Fullerton Transportation Center after the altercation.  The photos were not shown on the two large projection screens in the courtroom. Stancyk identified the photos and was asked to describe the condition of Thomas as depicted in those photos. 

After cross examination by Barnett and Cicinelli's attorney Michael Schwartz, Stancyk was dismissed.

Judge Froeberg said due to a schedule change, there would be no afternoon session. The fourth day of the trial starts at 8:45 a.m. Thursday. 

11:55 a.m. Jurors in the trial of two former Fullerton police officers charged in the death of a mentally ill homeless man heard an audio recording Wednesday in which, prosecutors say, one of the defendants is heard saying, “I smashed his face to hell.”

Prosecutors say the voice, picked up by the audio recording device of a fellow officer, is that of Jay Cicinelli, 41, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas.

Co-defendant and former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos, 39, has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for his role in an altercation between Thomas and six Fullerton police officers on the night of  July 5, 2011. Thomas was hospitalized following the incident and died five days later.

An autopsy showed Thomas died from a lack of oxygen to the brain because of pressure on his chest and bleeding in his nose, according to Orange County District Atty. Tony Rackauckas. Defense attorneys dispute the cause of death, and  said in court Monday that Thomas died of a heart attack brought on by an enlarged heart aggravated by years of drug abuse.  Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, said his son, a diagnosed schizophrenic, did not abuse drugs. 

Deputy District Atty. Keith Bogardus began the proceedings Wednesday by playing audio from three Fullerton police officers' voice recorders. The jury was given written transcripts of the recordings and they looked down at the transcripts and the audio played in court. 

The first audio played came from the digital audio recorder of Sgt. Kevin Craig. It begins during the last minutes of the confrontation between police officers and Kelly Thomas.

THOMAS: "Daddy … daddy … daddy.." Thomas' voice is slowing and slightly slurred as he repeats "daddy" over and over,  in contrast to his shouts earlier in the struggle. 

OFFICER: "Relax, relax."

OFFICER: "He's still fighting."

THOMAS: "Help me … help me … help me …"

OFFICER" "Relax, relax."

At this point, in the courtroom, Kelly's mother, Cathy Thomas, began tearing up, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. 

Bogardus then played audio from the voice recorder of Cpl. Tony Rios, in which a man prosecutors have identified as Cicinelii is heard saying,  "I smashed his face to hell."

In his opening statement Monday, Rackauckas said Cicinelli repeatedly used the butt of his Taser to beat Thomas' face and head. 

Also heard in the voicer recorder audio, is a conversation between emergency personnel talking about which hospital they should take Kelly Thomas to for treatment. 

Bogardus also played a Fullerton Police dispatch recording.

The first witness called Wednesday --  and the third called so far by prosecutors -- was Dawn Scruggs, a forensics specialist at the  Fullerton Police Department. Following the altercation at the Fullerton Transportation Center, Scruggs collected evidence and took pictures, including photos of the officers involved.

"Our job is to collect documents and evidence at crime scenes," said Scruggs, a 15-year FPD veteran. 

She testified when she arrived at the Fullerton Transportation Center, Kelly Thomas was on the ground, with fire department personnel checking his vital signs.

On the witness stand, Scruggs was asked to identified various items from the incident, including Cicinelli's Taser  and Ramos' baton.

Asst. District Atty. Jim Tanizaki showed Scruggs the picture she took of Ramos after the altercation. It was also shown on a projection screen for the jurors.

"He told me his rib cage hurt and he had been in the 'fight of his life,' " Scruggs said.  

Scruggs also identified various photographs she took of Kelly Thomas at the hospital, documenting his injuries from the incident. Tanizaki showed the photos only to Scruggs, the photos were not shown on the large projection screens.

The photos brought gasps from court spectators in the court during a preliminary hearing in 2012.