LAPD Officer Charged With Assaulting Woman Who Died During Arrest
An LAPD officer has been charged with assault in the case of a woman who died while she was being taken into custody last year.
LAPD officer Mary O'Callaghan, 48, was charged with one felony count of assaulting Alesia Thomas under color of authority, according to a release from the District Attorney's office. With that charge, she faces a maximum of three years in state prison. Although Thomas died in custody, prosecutors said that they didn't have enough evidence to go after O'Callaghan for a greater charge like involuntary manslaughter.
In July 2012, LAPD officers were dispatched to Thomas' home to arrest her on suspicion of child abandonment after two of her children turned up at an LAPD station. O'Callaghan arrived later to assist those officers who were handcuffing her and putting her in leg restraints. While she was in the patrol car, Thomas lost consciousness. Paramedics were called in, and she was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Video of the incident that has not been released to the public showed that O'Callaghan kicked Thomas in the stomach and groin before pushing her in the throat. Benjamin Crump, attorney for Thomas family, demanded the video be released publicly because he believes there may be enough evidence for a manslaughter charge: "This reignites our demand to have the video released, because there is a first hand eyewitness account, it is the surveillance video that speaks the truth. We will not stop until the truth comes out on behalf of Alesia Thomas’ children. We still need to see video, we believe that whatever they did to her, while in their custody, caused her death.”
A civilian panel found that O'Callaghan violated policy in the way she used her feet to kick and shove Thomas. She also showed "apparent indifference...toward the Subject during the contact, including the nature of the comments that were made."
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told City News Service that O'Callaghan's actions "as seen on the video, did not meet the expectations I have of our officers in the field."
But coroner's report did not tie Thomas' death directly to O'Callaghan. Her cause of death was "undetermined." Cocaine intoxication was one major contributing factor, NBC reports.
A spokesman for the police union Tyler Izen refused to comment on the case, but noted that O'Callaghan had a good reputation in the department: "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."
NBC notes what we already suspected: not many police officers are criminally charged for their work on the job, and we'd add that even when they do, juries are often pretty sympathetic to police, especially those in Simi Valley.