SANTA ANA (CNS) - Testifying in the trial of two former police officers accused of fatally beating a homeless man, a
In other testimony in the trial of former Officer Manuel Ramos and ex-Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, a forensics investigator said Ramos told her that he had been in ``in the fight of his life.''
Fire Capt. Ron Stancyk, a 29-year veteran of the department who has been a paramedic for 24 years, testified that he arrived at the scene of the July 5, 2011, beating of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas at the Fullerton Transportation Center about 9 p.m. and spoke to an unnamed officer.
``I said, `What do you have?' And he said, `We have an individual with some scratches,''' Stancyk said.
As paramedics treated the officer, Stancyk noticed Thomas.
``I turned to my right and noticed an individual on the ground,'' the fire captain testified.The shirtless, bloodied and unconscious Thomas was on his side with his head leaning against a police officer's leg, Stancyk testified.
Paramedics had to attach an instrument to Thomas' back to measure his heartbeat because there was too much blood on his chest, Stancyk testified.
Thomas had a pulse of about 60 and his breathing was slight and labored, according to Stancyk, who said paramedics cleared the patient's airways of blood.
``You could see the blood flowing in and out of his nose,'' Stancyk testified.
Thomas, whose heart stopped in the ambulance, was rushed to St. Jude Hospital, where a breathing tube was inserted before he was transferred to UC Irvine Medical Center, Stancyk testified. Thomas was pronounced dead at UCI five days later after being taken off life support.
Stancyk contradicted a defense claim in opening statements that the medicine given to Thomas at UCI made the facial wounds he sustained look worse.
As a prosecutor showed a photo of Thomas in the hospital, Stancyk testified that the patient looked the same way when they loaded him on the ambulance, minus some of the blood.
Attorney John Barnett, who represents Ramos, tried to question Stancyk about trouble putting a breathing tube into Thomas at St. Jude, but Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg upheld a prosecution objection.
Barnett indicated that Thomas had to have a second breathing tube put in when the first attempt failed.
Stancyk also testified that the police officers at the center did nothing to help Thomas. It has been established in trial testimony that Cicinelli made the 911 call telling dispatchers Thomas needed medical attention.
Forensics investigator Dawn Scruggs testified she had just finished a lunch break when she heard the first ``Code 3'' call over the police radio. Code 3 is used when officers request help.
Scruggs said the initial call did not faze her because it's common for officers to request backup.
``It was the second one that perked my ears up,'' Scruggs said. ``It seemed more exigent ... You could hear the struggle. I thought, `Let me start that way. There's something wrong. Let me see if my guys are OK.'''
The third Code 3 call from Ramos was uniquely rare, she testified.
``I've never heard of it in my 23 years in law enforcement,'' Scruggs testified.
Scruggs took photos of the cuts, scrapes and bumps officers sustained in the struggle -- Ramos, Cicinelli and former Officer Joe Wolfe, a third co-defendant who will go on trial later.
Wolfe was ``clearly shaken, in disbelief,'' Scruggs testified.
``He was tired, exhausted,'' she added.
Ramos was ``kind of slumped over,'' leaning on a squad car, Scruggs testified.
When she asked him how he was doing, he told her his rib cage hurt, ``and that he was in the fight of his life,'' Scruggs testified.
Scruggs did not talk to Cicinelli until much later, but he still seemed ``kind of shaken and he said this guy would just not stop fighting,'' she said.
Police were summoned to the transportation center in response to a call from the nearby Slidebar nightclub that someone -- investigators later determined Thomas was not involved -- was trying to break into cars in the business' parking lot.
What began as a routine meeting between Ramos, Wolfe and Thomas escalated into violence as Thomas refused to tell officers his name and carried on a prickly and sarcastic back-and-forth with his questioners, according to surveillance video of the conflict that was shown to jurors on Tuesday.
An autopsy showed Thomas died from a lack of oxygen to the brain because of the pressure on his chest and bleeding in his nose, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.
Both sides agree that there were no drugs or alcohol in Thomas' system.
Barnett told jurors that Thomas struggled with alcoholism and abused methamphetamine for years starting in the 10th grade, and that the drugs left him a ``time bomb'' who would periodically ``explode'' into violence.
``This is a case about a man who made bad choices in his life,'' Barnett said. ``This is not a case about a bully cop who targeted homeless men.''
Cicinelli's attorney, Michael Schwartz, said the evidence will show Thomas had an ``enlarged heart'' due to years of drug abuse and that he lapsed into cardiac arrest when he over-exerted himself. The blows and chest compression did not kill Thomas, he said.
``A tragedy? Yes,'' Schwartz said. ``A crime? No.''
Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.