Officer Used Unnecessary Force Before Woman's Death, LAPD Says

The woman was kicked by an officer before dying in a squad car during her 2012 arrest

By Christina Cocca and Beverly White
|  Friday, Jun 28, 2013  |  Updated 10:49 AM CDT
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A Los Angeles Police Department officer used unnecessary force when she kicked a woman in the genitals minutes before the 35-year-old died in a police car last year, according to a police commission report. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Thursday June 27, 2013.

A Los Angeles Police Department officer used unnecessary force when she kicked a woman in the genitals minutes before the 35-year-old died in a police car last year, according to a police commission report. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Thursday June 27, 2013.

A Los Angeles police officer used unnecessary force when she kicked a woman in the genitals minutes before the 35-year-old died in a police car last year, the Los Angeles Police Commission announced in a report released Thursday.

An autopsy report could not confirm why Thomas died after the confrontation with police.

Alesia Thomas was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment after her two children -- ages 3 and 12 -- were found abandoned and carrying backpacks filled with clothes at the LAPD Southeast Area Station at about 2 a.m. on July 22, 2012.

Officers tried to take Thomas into custody after questioning her at her South Los Angeles home, and Thomas “began actively resisting arrest,” LAPD officials said last year.

One officer took 228-pound Thomas to the ground by sweeping her legs out from under her, while two other officers handcuffed Thomas behind her back, officials said.

After she reportedly continued to struggle, another unit of officers arrived and put her in a “hobble restraint,” or adjustable ankle strap.

Thomas was placed her in the squad car while, the report found, resisting the officers by kicking and attempting to close the car door with her feet.

Thomas was sprawled across the back seat when the officer, whose identity has not been released, used her feet to push or kick Thomas seven times on three separate occasions in the upper thigh, groin and abdomen areas, according to the report. 

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the officer used "non-lethal force." And he called her actions "out of policy," in part, because Thomas' actions "did not constitute a significant threat to the officer."

Once Thomas was in the car, video from the cruiser shows her breathing shallowly until she drew her last breath, according to the report.

An autopsy released in January found that Thomas had cocaine in her system when she went into cardiac arrest, but it also said it was unclear why Thomas died, because it was difficult to know how the struggle may have contributed.

Thomas also had a history of bipolar disorder, according to the autopsy report. Thomas’ children now live with her grandmother, after first being held by the Department of Children and Family Services. Beck was informed of Thomas’ death the day it happened.

After a 72-hour briefing with the chief and senior LAPD staff, two separate investigations were launched -- a categorical use-of-force investigation, conducted by the LAPD Force Investigation Division, and the misconduct investigation by the LAPD Internal Affairs Group.

The commission used footage from a camera inside the squad car that captured some of the arrest.

The report concluded that four other officers involved in the arrest may have been behaved inappropriately. The department will conduct an internal investigation into their actions.

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