Alesia Thomas

Alesia ThomasA vulnerable woman dies following police arrest

Compiled from various sources
submitted by: Fiona Kerr – October 2013

Updates listed at the foot of this item

A Los Angeles Police Officer, Mary O’Callaghan, 48, was charged with assault in October 2013, after 35 year-old Alesia Thomas was forcibly taken into police custody on 22 July 2012 and later died. Four other LAPD officers were also investigated. The incident happened after Alesia, who suffered from bipolar, schizophrenia and drug addiction, attempted to place her children into police custody because she felt she could no longer care for them.

On July 22nd, 2012 Alesia dropped her two children, a 3-year old and 12-year old, off at a local police station saying she was struggling to support her family.

Three police officers then tracked Alesia down to her home, where they were to arrest her for child endangerment, but she would later die at their hands.

According to the LAPD’s official account, after questioning her briefly, officers attempted to take Alesia into custody and claim that she started “violently resisting arrest”. One of the officers swept Alesia’s legs from beneath her to take her to the ground and two others handcuffed her hands behind her back and attempted to lead her to a patrol car.

A supervising sergeant summoned two more officers as Alesia continued to struggle. A “hobble restraint device” – an adjustable strap – was tightened around Alesia’s ankles to control her and she was eventually placed in the back of the control car. This is when O’Callaghan, repeatedly shouted profanities and kicked Alesia several times in the groin, abdomen and upper thighs as she lay handcuffed.

The department’s account said officers immediately notified paramedics when it looked as if Alesia had lost consciousness. It is unclear whether the officers attempted to resuscitate her and how much time passed before paramedics arrived. Alesia died shortly after being transported to a hospital.

An autopsy has since found that cocaine was in Alesia’s system at the time of her death but left Alesia’s death as “undetermined” because the struggle could not be excluded as a contributing factor.

The case and subsequent follow-up has caused widespread scrutiny. Alesia’s last moments were captured in a video that was mounted inside of the officer’s patrol car, which has yet to be released to the family. In October 2012, Alesia’s family filed a lawsuit against the LAPD, to have access to the video, believing that it will shed light on exactly how the mother- of-two died. Sandra Thomas, Alesia’s mother, has said, “We have the right to see how they treated my daughter. And I believe someone is hiding something from us.”

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has been critical of how several officers acted during the incident last year. In a report to the Police Commission, the civilian board that oversees the LAPD, Beck concluded that Mary O’Callaghan violated department policies when she repeatedly kicked Alesia in her genitals and midsection.

Beck raised concerns as well over the actions of three additional officers and a supervisor during the incident. Two of the officers disregarded Alesia’s request for medical help, while the third officer may have lied to investigators about the incident, Beck wrote in his report. A sergeant who responded to the scene may have failed to properly supervise the officers, according to the report.

Beck has said “the officer’s actions that day, as seen on the video, did not meet the expectations I have of our officers in the field.” However Alesia’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, noted that there should have been audio for the video as well as visuals; “He talked about what he saw, but we want to know what was said. Did she [O’Callaghan] say any racial or derogatory terms to Thomas?”

The department opened formal internal investigations based on Chief Beck’s findings in the report which have resulted in Mary O’Callaghan’s charge.

On 15th October 2013, O’Callaghan pleaded not guilty and was allowed to go free without bail. Judge Shelly Torrealba signed off on a request by the district attorney’s office to keep the video from being released by prosecutors or defence attorneys to prevent tainting a potential jury, O’Callaghan’s attorney Robert Rico said.

Alesia’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, reiterated his call for the LAPD to release the video so that “the family can see what the officers did to her in her last minutes of life.”

Three other officers involved in the arrest have been placed on non-field assignments at other stations pending internal investigations. A fourth was allowed to return to the field.


Follow-up News:

Jailed LAPD woman cop’s appeal rejected for kicking handcuffed woman who died
13 March 2017

Los Angeles police officer gets jail time for assaulting woman who died
23 July 2015

Mary O’Callaghan pleads not guilty to felony assault
15 October 2013

Lawyer asks: what did LAPD cop say before Alesia Thomas died?
15 October 2013

Lawyer asks: what did LAPD cop say before Alesia Thomas died?
15 October 2013

Family sues police for video after violent death in custody
12 October 2012

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