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Probe found California officers violated policy in arrest leading to homeless man's 2011 death

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SANTA ANA, California — Two Fullerton, California, police officers who were acquitted of criminal wrongdoing in the 2011 death of a mentally ill homeless man violated their department's use-of-force policy, according to an internal report.

The report, written by an independent auditor, details the former officers' actions as they engaged in a violent struggle with Kelly Thomas.

It was not introduced in the criminal trial that led to last year's acquittals because of state laws protecting the confidentiality of peace officers' disciplinary records.

The 2012 report came to light recently after it was included in a legal filing in a wrongful-death civil lawsuit brought by Thomas' father against the city, the Fullerton Police Department, the formers officers and others. That trial is slated for later this month.

Former Officer Manuel Ramos was acquitted of second-degree murder.

Former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.

Both were also acquitted of excessive use of force.

Tim Kral, Cicinelli's civil attorney, told The Associated Press in an email that he believes the report was distributed in direct violation of a court order.

Defense attorneys asked Monday that the attorney representing Thomas' father, Garo Mardirossian, be disqualified because of the leak. Mardirossian didn't return a call seeking comment.

The judge has not yet decided if the report can be used as evidence at trial.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2014 file photo, former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos listens to Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas' rebuttal closing argument in the case against him and fellow former officer Jay Cicinelli stemming from the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man, who died after a violent 2011 confrontation with the officers. Ramos and Cicinelli who were tried and ultimately acquitted in the beating death of Thomas in 2011 violated department policy on use of force and officer conduct, according to a previously confidential internal report. The report, prepared by an independent investigator, has come to light four years after Thomas' death as part of the evidence to be introduced at a civil wrongful death trial against the Fullerton Police Department. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Joshua Sudock, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2014 file photo, former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos listens to Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas' rebuttal closing argument in the case against him and fellow former officer Jay Cicinelli stemming from the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man, who died after a violent 2011 confrontation with the officers. Ramos and Cicinelli who were tried and ultimately acquitted in the beating death of Thomas in 2011 violated department policy on use of force and officer conduct, according to a previously confidential internal report. The report, prepared by an independent investigator, has come to light four years after Thomas' death as part of the evidence to be introduced at a civil wrongful death trial against the Fullerton Police Department. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Joshua Sudock, Pool, File)

Kral also disputed the report's findings, saying his client used only reasonable and lawful force to "overcome Mr. Thomas' very active resistance" — a finding supported by the jury in the criminal trial.

A 33-minute surveillance video recorded the incident. The video, matched up with audio from Ramos' body recorder, was a central piece of evidence in the criminal trial.

The video began with Ramos stopping Thomas after the officer answered a call about a disheveled man jiggling the handles of car doors in a busy transit center parking lot. The Orange County city of about 140,000 residents is about 25 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Ramos grew frustrated with Thomas, who wasn't following orders to sit on a curb with his hands on his knees.

Just before the altercation began, Ramos snapped on plastic gloves, made two fists and then held them in front of Thomas' face as he said, "Now see these fists? They're going to (expletive) you up."

Cicinelli, who arrived a few moments later, jolted Thomas several times with an electric stun gun and used the butt end to hit Thomas in the head and face, breaking bones.

Cicinelli told investigators that he hit Thomas in the face because he feared he was grabbing at his stun gun.

In the internal report, the auditor noted that Cicinelli was recorded immediately after the incident saying that he had "smashed his face to hell" and "(expletive) beat him probably twenty times in the face with this Taser."

Thomas was taken off life support five days after the July 5, 2011, encounter.

A county pathologist ruled Thomas died, in part, from asphyxiation caused by injuries he received during the confrontation.

Attorneys representing Ramos didn't immediately return emails seeking comment. His criminal attorney declined to comment.


This story has been corrected to show that the population of Fullerton is about 140,000.

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PHOTO: FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2014 file photo, former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos listens to Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas' rebuttal closing argument in the case against him and fellow former officer Jay Cicinelli stemming from the death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man, who died after a violent 2011 confrontation with the officers. Ramos and Cicinelli who were tried and ultimately acquitted in the beating death of Thomas in 2011 violated department policy on use of force and officer conduct, according to a previously confidential internal report. The report, prepared by an independent investigator, has come to light four years after Thomas' death as part of the evidence to be introduced at a civil wrongful death trial against the Fullerton Police Department. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Joshua Sudock, Pool, File)
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