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Family of woman kicked by LAPD officer wants others held accountable

Relatives of a handcuffed woman who was kicked by a Los Angeles police officer say the officers who stood by also should be held accountable.

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.

Prosecutors said the charge could carry up three years in prison if she is convicted.

“I am sad it has taken this long. I am sure Charlie Beck saw this video long ago. I would like to see that video,” said Thomas’ mother, Sandra Thomas. “They are charging that officer, but what about all of the officers involved?

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“They did nothing to stop this,” she continued. “They didn’t intervene to stop her kicking. They broke the law … maybe they didn’t care just like the officer who kept kicking.”

Alesia Thomas’ grandmother, Ada Moses, said she believed justice would prevail.

“When you do wrong, it is going to come back to you,” she said Thursday.

Both women want video of the incident captured by a police cruiser dashboard camera made public, said civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Thomas’ family.

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“The truth is going to come out,” Crump said. “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.”

O’Callaghan was one of several officers sent to Thomas’ home in the 9100 block of South Broadway to investigate allegations that 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.

Once inside the patrol car, Thomas lost consciousness and paramedics were called. Shortly afterward, she was pronounced dead at a hospital.

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Prosecutors said Thursday 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, said his client did nothing wrong and O’Callaghan was “absolutely devastated the D.A. chose to file against her.”

Rico said he has reviewed the evidence and was “shocked” prosecutors considered the incident an assault under the color of authority.

O’Callaghan, a 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.

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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 Christmastime,” Tyler Izen said in a statement.

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 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 woman during the effort to restrain her and place her in the back of a police cruiser.

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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 the report.

The five-member Police Commission agreed with the chief’s finding that the 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 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.

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Because of that uncertainty, the official cause of death was listed as “undetermined.”

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 said 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.

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Crump on Thursday said Thomas at the time “was trying to get her children to a safe haven.”

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richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes | Google+


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