Two on-duty cops who beat a homeless man to death last July are facing criminal charges filed by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Another police officer, Jay Cicinelli, was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Ramos and Cicinelli are implicated in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with a documented history of schizophrenia.
Fullerton police officers were dispatched to investigate reports of car burglaries. Officers spotted Thomas outside a Fullerton bus depot and stopped him to ask him some questions, The Orange County Register reports.
A minor altercation occurred between Thomas and Ramos. Thomas ended up trying to run, which sparked the beating that led to his death.
Ramos allegedly said, "my fists.. are getting ready to f- you up," before launching into the attack. Cicinelli contributed to the lethal beating by bashing Thomas' face with a Taser.
Thomas died five days after the attack when he was removed from life support at a local hospital.
How is the charge of second-degree murder different than involuntary manslaughter?
The district attorney will have to persuade a jury that Ramos acted with malice aforethought in order to a win a second-degree murder conviction.
In order to prove "malice aforethought," the prosecution will have to show that Ramos acted with the intent to kill. Or, that he had utter disregard for the potential damage that his actions could have caused.
The lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter that both Ramos and Cicinelli face only requires that the perpetrator was reckless or criminally negligent during the killing. There is no "malice aforethought" requirement.
So, were the cops who beat the homeless man acting with express or implied malice? In other words, did Officer Manuel Ramos intend to kill or did he disregard the risk of death when he launched into the beating? Or were the officers simply negligent or reckless in their behavior? It's up for a jury to decide.