At least five members of the LAPD are the subject of the investigation into how Alesia Thomas died from suffocation after a struggle with police officers that included a female officer stomping on her genital area. The woman’s grandmother, Ada Moses, said she has not been able to sleep since Thomas’ death.
“I just want them to tell the truth about what happened to my granddaughter,” Ada Moses said in an interview with KNBC Channel 4.
The confrontation was captured on the dashboard camera of a police car. LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck may release the videotape today.
“I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously,” Beck said in a statement late Thursday. “I am confident we will get to the truth no matter where that leads us.”
LAPD Cmdr. Bob Green confirmed to the LA Times that one officer threatened to kick Thomas in the genitals if she did not comply, and then followed through on the 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.
In his statement, Beck said that before passing judgment on the officers, he wanted to find out whether Thomas had been under the influence of any drugs or suffered from a medical condition that could have caused her death.
Police were looking for Thomas because she abandoned her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at the LAPD’s Southeast station, according to a department account released the following day. Green, who oversees the Southeast 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.
When officers found her, a confrontation ensued and Thomas “began actively resisting arrest.” She was brought to the ground when one of the officers swept her legs from beneath her, according to 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.
According to the police account, 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.
Neighborhood witnesses said it didn’t appear that the officers did anything wrong.
“They were talking to her, asking her to calm down, that everything will be all right,” said Gerald McCrary Sr., 55. He said they even brought Thomas some water to drink.
Charmaine Hood, McCrary’s live-in caregiver, also saw officers trying to help Thomas.
“I didn’t see them try to harm her in any shape or fashion,” Hood told the LA Times. “I seen them protect her from hurting herself.”