Hours after two former police officers were acquitted of all charges in the 2011 beating death of a homeless man at a Fullerton, Calif., transit station, the FBI announced Monday it would examine evidence in the trial to see if further investigation is needed.
Jurors reached the verdicts in just one day regarding whether Fullerton Officer Manuel Ramos and former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli were responsible for the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas. Both were found not guilty.
"In 2011, the FBI opened an investigation to determine if Mr. Thomas' civil rights were violated during the altercation with Fullerton police officers. With the conclusion of the state court trial, investigators will examine the evidence and testimony to determine if further investigation is warranted at the federal level," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a statement to NBC4.
Ramos, the first police officer in Orange County to be charged with murder while on duty, was found not guilty of one count each of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli was found not guilty of one count each of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.
Charges against a third former Fullerton police officer, Joseph Wolfe, will be dropped in light of the not guilty verdicts, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said outside the courtroom.
"Where do we really find justice anymore in our justice system?" Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, said after the verdict. "It has been proven right here today that they will get away with it. They will get away with it."
The case ignited outrage in the community and led to the recall of three Fullerton City Council members, the departure of the city’s police chief and a scathing report that accused the department of ignoring misconduct among its ranks.
Protesters gathered Monday night outside the Fullerton Police Department to rally against the officers’ acquittals. Demonstrators also rallied at the Fullerton Transportation Center, the site where police fought with Thomas in the summer of 2011 in the violent caught-on-camera confrontation.