Thomas, a homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia, was beaten into a coma by a thugscrum of six police officers on the evening of July 5, 2011. Video recordings of the assault captured the anguished screams of the helpless, unarmed, 160-pound man as he was slugged, kicked, tasered, and clubbed as the attackers bellowed, "Stop resisting!" With his last words Kelly pleaded for his father Ron Thomas, a retired sheriff's deputy. Left brain-dead by the gang beating, Kelly was removed from life support a few days later.
The lead assailants, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cincinelli, were acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder by an Orange County jury in January 2014. Several defense witnesses, including Fullerton Corporal Stephen Rubio, described the lethal behavior of the officers as compatible with the department's use-of-force policy.
"These peace officers did their jobs — they did what they were trained to do," insisted John Barnett, the police union lawyer who represented Ramos during the trial. Michael D. Schwartz, who represented Cincinelli, likewise insisted that the pitiless assault on Thomas was carried out in strict fidelity to the "training" the officers had received.