Madison Ruppert, Contributor
The video camera in a patrol car captured a scuffle between officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and 35-year-old mother Alesia Thomas on July 22. During the altercation Thomas allegedly sustained a genital kick in the process of forcing her in the back of the patrol car, after which she died of suffocation.
This is one of the relatively infrequent situations where the so-called “dash cams” in police cars have resulted in an atrocity being exposed which might otherwise never be known by the public, somewhat like the case early this year involving the beating of a 66-year-old man for no apparent reason.
Unfortunately, in that case, the officer responsible was only held accountable for attempting to turn off the camera in order to cover up his actions. Thankfully, it appears that this case will result in a more thorough investigation.
According to the Los Angeles Times, at least five LAPD officers are currently under investigation over the incident which occurred in South Los Angeles.
Police officials confirmed that the officers stomped “on her genital area” in addition to “the use of additional force by others to take her into custody.”
Thomas was forcibly placed in the back of the police car and she can be seen on the video breathing shallowly and not long after she stopped breathing completely.
LAPD Commander Bob Green was contacted by the Los Angeles Times and confirmed that while one officer was attempting to get Thomas into the patrol car, a threat to kick Thomas in the genitals was issued and soon after the officer followed through on the threat.
This incident, quite unfortunately, is not isolated. In fact, the case of the death of Thomas emerged just a day after LAPD Chief Charlie 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,” according to the Times.
According to CBS Los Angeles, the officers involved in the arrest of Thomas have been removed from field duty by Beck.
“I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously,” said Beck in a statement. “I am confident we will get to the truth no matter where that leads us.”
According to an official account released by the LAPD the day after the incident, the altercation with Thomas occurred early in the morning of July 22 after Thomas left her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at the LAPD’s Southeast Area station.
According to Green, Thomas attempted to surrender custody of her children to the police because she was a drug addict and thus felt she could not care for them.
Officers then began searching for Thomas and discovered her at her home, questioned her and then attempted to arrest her on suspicion of child endangerment, according to the official account.
The official account then states that Thomas “began actively resisting arrest” and one of the officers swept her legs out from under her, bringing her to the ground.
Two other officers then placed Thomas’ hands behind her back and handcuffed her, attempting to lead her to a patrol car. According to the official version of the story, a supervising sergeant was observing these actions.
As Thomas continued to struggle, the LAPD’s account states that two more officers got involved and because she was “a large woman” according to Green, they used what is called a “hobble restraint device” (essentially an adjustable strap) to immobilize her ankles and give the officers greater control.
According to the official account, Thomas was then placed in the back of the police car. Unsurprisingly, this account completely leaves out the highly questionable actions, which were confirmed by Green, of a female officer at the scene.
The LAPD’s version of the story goes on to say that officers immediately notified paramedics of the situation although it is not certain if the officers on the scenes attempted to resuscitate Thomas. It is also unclear how much time elapsed before paramedics arrived at the scene.
Regardless of the attempts to resuscitate Thomas or the time elapsed between the incident and the arrival of the paramedics, we now know that Thomas “died shortly after being transported to a hospital.”
One witness, 55-year-old Gerald McCrary, said he was interviewed by police twice but they never mentioned that Thomas was dead.
McCrary’s version of events clearly paints Thomas as the aggressor since he claims that Thomas somehow broke the plastic handcuffs she was restrained with, after which she was secured with metal handcuffs.
“They were talking to her, asking her to calm down, that everything will be alright,” McCrary said.
McCrary then said that Thomas told police, “My heart hurts. I can’t walk anymore.” He reported that two officers escorted her down the apartment complex’s stairs, one on each of Thomas’ arms.
McCrary said he eventually followed after them and saw Thomas in a patrol car “shaking her head against the back seat.”
However, there seems to be some quite sizeable and strange gaps in McCrary’s recollection of the events since the Times reports only his memory of her in the back seat of a patrol car and then after an indeterminate period of time he allegedly “saw her sprawled out on the sidewalk without a blouse. Paramedics had just arrived.”
It is unclear if the Times is just leaving out some of his account of the events or if his memory actually has this seemingly gaping hole.
McCrary happens to have a live-in caregiver, Charmaine Hood, who also said she witnessed the incident. “I didn’t see them try to harm her in any shape or fashion,” said Hood. “I seen them protect her from hurting herself.”
Beck stated that he is looking into if Thomas was under the influence of any substances or suffering from a medical condition which could be related to her death before passing judgment on the officers involved.
The LAPD is now reportedly conducting both criminal and administrative investigations into what the officers did that day.
I find it quite interesting that this investigation only came to light after Beck transferred Captain Joseph Hitner from the LAPD’s Foothill Division after another atrocious police confrontation was caught on tape involving a 34-year-old nurse named Michelle Jordan.
The incident involving Jordan occurred on August 21st and began when Jordan was pulled over at a Del Taco restaurant in Tujunga, reportedly because she was holding a cell phone while driving.
Jordan, standing at 5-foot 4-inches tall, exited her car and then allegedly failed to comply with officers commands to return to her vehicle.
The male police officers then slammed her to the ground and placed her in handcuffs according to police. While Jordan was cuffed, she was led to the patrol car and just moments later was slammed yet again, apparently with even more force.
The officer responsible was much larger than Jordan and the video appears to show the officers actually high-fiving each other after Jordan was slammed a second time and left quite clearly injured.
According to Beck, Hiltner, a 34-year veteran of the LAPD, “was severely deficient in his response” to the incident since he failed to even notify his superiors and remove the two officers responsible from field duties.
Beck said that he ordered the footage of the incident to be shown when officers begin their shifts at roll call.
Hopefully the severity of these two recent incidents, as well as the relatively extensive coverage they are receiving, will spur the LAPD to actually hold these officers responsible for their actions just like any other person would be. Unfortunately, based on past precedent, I’m not all too confident that this will come to pass just yet.
This article first appeared at End the Lie.