Video of LAPD officer kicking woman should be public, lawyer says
Video from a police cruiser camera that shows an LAPD officer kicking a restrained woman -- who later died -- needs to made public, the family attorney said Thursday.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged Officer Mary O’Callaghan on Wednesday with assault under the color of authority in the July 22, 2012, incident in South Los Angeles that ended with the death of Alesia Thomas.
“This news should reignite our demand that the video be released,” said civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Thomas’ family. “The truth is going to come out. We don’t want to rely on their view of the video.
“Her children, her family and the community should be able to see what happened when Alecia Thomas died in the custody of the LAPD,” he continued.
Crump said the family has filed a claim against the LAPD.
O’Callaghan was one of several officers sent to Thomas’ home in the 9100 block of South Broadway Avenue to investigate allegations Thomas had abandoned her children after they were left at a local police station.
O’Callaghan arrived to assist the arresting officers in placing Thomas in a patrol car. While Thomas was in handcuffs and leg restraints, prosecutors said, a police cruiser’s video camera captured the veteran officer kicking Thomas in the stomach and groin area and pushing her in the throat.
Thomas, once inside the patrol car, lost consciousness and paramedics were called. Shortly afterward, she was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Prosecutors on Thursday said they declined to charge O’Callaghan with involuntary manslaughter because of insufficient evidence to prove her conduct caused Thomas’ death.
O’Callaghan’s attorney, Robert Rico, could not be reached for comment.
The 19-year veteran LAPD officer is currently suspended without pay after Police Chief Charlie Beck directed she face a board of rights, said sources not authorized to discuss the matter. That panel will determine whether she violated department policy and recommend a punishment up to termination.
But the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League said in a statement that “the alleged actions of the officer are incongruous with her reputation as an officer who was known to be diligent, courteous and ethical.”
“This officer had previously been publicly commended by the LAPD for community efforts and was publicly commended for helping a burglary victim’s family who lost all their presents at Christmas time,” Tyler Izen said in a statement.
Beck previously criticized the officer’s actions. In a report to the Police Commission, the civilian board that oversees the LAPD, Beck concluded -- without naming O’Callaghan -- that a veteran female officer violated department policies by repeatedly using her feet to kick or shove Alesia Thomas in her genitals and midsection.
The same officer, the chief and the commission found, showed “apparent indifference” toward Thomas as she cursed at the mother of two young children during the messy effort to restrain her and place her in the back of a police cruiser.
Beck also raised concerns about the actions of three additional officers and a supervisor during the confrontation.
Two of the officers disregarded Thomas’ request for medical help, while the third cop may have lied to investigators about the incident, Beck wrote in a report.
The five-member Police Commission agreed with the chief’s finding that the female officer’s forceful use of her feet was “ineffective and inappropriate,” according to a commission report on the incident.
An autopsy by the L.A. County coroner determined that cocaine intoxication probably was “a major factor” in Thomas’ death. It was impossible to determine what role, if any, the struggle with the officers played in the 35-year-old woman’s death.
Because of that uncertainty, the official cause of death was listed as “undetermined.”
The Times reported previously on the alleged kicks by the female officer and Thomas’ odd decision to abandon her children outside the LAPD’s Southeast area station, which led to the fatal confrontation with police.
Hours before she died, Thomas, who suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and drug addiction according to the autopsy report, had left her children, a 3-year-old and a 12-year-old, outside the station, according to a department account of the incident.
Initially, police reported that Thomas was attempting to surrender the children to police custody because she felt she could no longer care for them properly.
In his report, however, Beck said, it appeared Thomas expected her mother to pick the children up at the station.
Crump on Thursday said Thomas at the time “was trying to get her children to a safe haven.”
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