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31Aug/12Off

LAPD Under Fire For Death Of An L.A. Woman

The Los Angeles Police Department has a bad PR problem. In fact, they’ve had a bad PR problem since before the Los Angeles Riots in 1992. It spans to the time of Chief Daryl Gates.

At least five Los Angeles police officers are under investigation in the death of a woman who stopped breathing during a struggle that included an officer stomping on her genital area and the use of additional force by others to take her into custody, police officials confirmed Thursday.

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Bell 206 ...

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Bell 206 Jetranger helicopter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The altercation in front of her South Los Angeles apartment was captured by a patrol car’s video camera.

When asked about the incident, LAPD Commander Bob Green confirmed that one officer, while trying to get Alesia Thomas into the back of a patrol car, threatened to kick Thomas in the genitals if she did not comply, and then followed through on her threat.

After officers forced Thomas into the back seat of the police car, she is seen on the video breathing shallowly; she eventually stopped breathing.

“I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement late Thursday. “I am confident we will get to the truth no matter where that leads us.”

The incident came to light a day after Beck announced he was transferring a captain from his command after a separate videotaped incident in which officers were shown slamming a handcuffed woman to the ground. Beck said that video raised concerns and that the department was investigating the officers.

The Thomas case occurred in the early morning hours of July 22 after she left her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at the LAPD’s Southeast Area station, according to a department account released the following day. Green, who oversees the Southeast Area station, confirmed that Thomas tried to surrender custody of the children to police because she was a drug addict and felt she could not care for them.

Officers went in search of Thomas, finding her at her home in the 9000 block of South Broadway. After questioning her briefly, the officers attempted to arrest her on suspicion of child endangerment, the department’s account said.

Thomas “began actively resisting arrest” and one of the officers took her to the ground by sweeping her legs from beneath her, the LAPD’s official account said. Two others handcuffed Thomas’ hands behind her back and attempted to lead her to a patrol car while a supervising sergeant observed, according to the department’s version.

Two more officers were summoned as Thomas continued to struggle. Green confirmed that Thomas was a large woman. A “hobble restraint device” — an adjustable strap — was tightened around Thomas’ ankles to give the officers more control and she was eventually placed in the back of the patrol car, the LAPD account said.

The official account, however, made no mention of what Green confirmed was a female officer’s questionable treatment of Thomas.

The department’s account said officers immediately notified paramedics. It is unclear whether the officers attempted to resuscitate her and how much time passed before paramedics arrived. Thomas died shortly after being transported to a hospital.

A neighbor who witnessed part of the incident said he did not see officers do anything wrong and described Thomas as the aggressor.

Gerald McCrary Sr., 55, said he was awakened by the commotion and saw police wrestling with Thomas, who managed to break free from plastic handcuffs. The officers secured her with metal handcuffs and tried to calm her down as she sat against a wall, McCrary said.

“They were talking to her, asking her to calm down, that everything will be all right,” he recalled. They brought Thomas some water to drink.

“My heart hurts. I can’t walk anymore,” he recalled Thomas telling police.

Two officers escorted her down the stairs in her apartment complex, one on each arm. McCrary eventually followed and said he saw Thomas in a patrol car “shaking her head against the back seat.” Some time later, he saw her sprawled out on the sidewalk without a blouse. Paramedics had just arrived.

McCrary said police interviewed him on two separate occasions about the incident but never mentioned that Thomas was dead.

Charmaine Hood, McCrary’s live-in caregiver, also witnessed Thomas’ encounter with police. She said officers were trying to help Thomas.

“I didn’t see them try to harm her in any shape or fashion,” Hood said. “I seen them protect her from hurting herself.”

If a loved one was the victim of wrongful death that was caused by negligence or some other form of reckless behavior, it is important that you contact a committed and dedicated personal injury lawyer to help you decide if you should file a lawsuit. A competent and reputable injury lawyer can help you receive the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.