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Calif. police officer pleads not guilty in beating death of mentally ill man, Kelly Thomas

In the video taken aboard an Orange County Transportation Authority bus, passengers say officers pounded 37-year-old Kelly Thomas' face and hogtied him as he cried out for his father.
CBS/KCBS
Five cops suspended after beating metally-disabled homeless man to death
Kelly Thomas
CBS/KCBS

(CBS/KCBS/AP) SANTA ANA, Calif. - Manual Ramos, a Fullerton police officer, pleaded not guilty Monday morning to homicide charges in the death of schizophrenic homeless man Kelly Thomas.

Pictures: Kelly Thomas

A judge also rejected Officer Ramos' bid to lower his $1 million bail, reports CBS station KCBS.

Ramos, 37, was charged last week with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death Thomas, 37, who died after a violent confrontation with six officers responding to reports of car burglaries at the Fullerton Transportation Center on July 5.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas announced the felony charges Thursday. Ramos and Fullterton police Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, 39, were charged with killing Thomas. The other four officers involved in Thomas's arrest will not face criminal charges. All six officers are on administrative leave.

Ramos turned himself in after the charges were announced. He appeared in a downtown Santa Ana courtroom that afternoon.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Erick Larsh set bail at $1 million for Ramos and ordered him to surrender his weapon.

Cicinelli, a 12-year veteran, pleaded not guilty Friday to one count each of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force. He was released on $25,000 bail.

Prosecutors said Thomas was shocked four times with a Taser stun gun, kneed in the head, punched in the ribs and bashed eight times with the butt of a stun gun.

The fight began when Ramos asked Thomas to place his hands on his knees, said Rackauckas.

When Thomas had trouble complying, Ramos snapped on a pair of latex gloves, held his fists in front of Thomas' face and said: "Now see my fists? They are getting ready to (expletive) you up," the prosecutor said.

He then went on to swing his baton at Thomas, chased him and eventually pinned him to the ground with his body, authorities said. 

The coroner concluded the cause of death was mechanical compression of the thorax, which made it impossible for Thomas to breathe normally and deprived his brain of oxygen, Rackauckas said. Other injuries to the face and head also contributed to his death.

Cicinelli, who arrived later, kneed Thomas twice in the head and used a Taser on him as he screamed and yelled in pain, Rackauckas said.

An FBI investigation is under way to determine if Thomas' civil rights were violated.

According to Rackauckas, Ramos, a 10-year Fullerton Police Department veteran, faces up to 15 years to life in prison if convicted.

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September 21, 2011 - Two Calif. police officers charged in beating death of mentally ill man, Kelly ThomasAugust 3, 2011 - Five cops suspended after beating mentally-disabled homeless man to death