Crime & Justice

Police Commission finds fault with officer involved in woman's custody death

Alesia Thomas, 35, died in police custody in 2012.
Alesia Thomas, 35, died in police custody in 2012.

The Los Angeles Police Commission has found fault with an officer who subdued a woman by pushing and kicking her — several times in the groin — in an incident last year that ended with her death while in custody.

In a report released Thursday, the commission found the officer's "use of non-lethal force to be out of policy" and "not consistent" with "expectations of a Los Angeles Police Officer." 

The incident, which was widely reported at the time, began when Alesia Thomas, 35, allegedly abandoned her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at the Southeast Division station on July 22. Officers identified Thomas as the mother and went to her home to investigate. When they decided to arrest her, she actively resisted, according to police statements.

Officers managed to handcuff Thomas and placed a hobble restraint device around her ankles. At one point, she asked for an ambulance, but the officers did not request one because, according to the report, they did not believe she needed one. 

It was while attempting to position her inside a squad car that one officer began using her foot to push and kick at Thomas in the upper thigh, abdomen, and groin, according to the commission's use of force report.

After the officers managed to get Thomas completely inside the vehicle and close the door, the squad car's video system captured her trying to move around and sit up before her eyes rolled back and she appeared to lose consciousness. Officers removed her from the vehicle and called for paramedics. By the time Thomas arrived at the hospital, she was in full cardiac arrest and pronounced dead.

The county coroner later found that cocaine intoxication was a "major factor" leading to Thomas's death, but also that the struggle with police officers could not be ruled out as a contributing factor, the report stated.

Police Chief Charlie Beck informed the commission that the department's personnel complaint process would be used to address the officer's conduct.

In its report, the commission found that the other officers involved acted according to department policy. None of the officers were named.

An LAPD representative declined to comment.

Use of Force Report