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News

Woman Dies in LAPD Custody Following Questionable Struggle

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The Los Angeles Police Department have revealed they are investigating the death of a 35-year-old woman who stopped breathing after a struggle with officers during her arrest.

Alesia Thomas was put under arrest in the early morning hours of July 22 when officers went to her residence after her two children turned up abandoned at the local police station. The LAPD say they interviewed Thomas, then arrested her for child endangerment, however Thomas was "resistant."

However, the struggle between Thomas and the officers was perhaps more brutal than the narrative of the LAPD news release suggests; the Los Angeles Times reports that "LAPD Cmdr. Bob Green confirmed that one [female] officer, while trying to get Alesia Thomas into the back of a patrol car, threatened to kick Thomas in the genitals if she did not comply, and then followed through on her threat."

The LAPD describes the scene:

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As the officers were taking Thomas into custody she began actively resisting arrest, attempting to pull away from the officers. One officer preformed a leg sweep and took Thomas to the ground to gain control of her. Two other officers then handcuffed Thomas behind her back. After the arrival of a police sergeant from Southeast Division the officers walked Thomas to their police vehicle. Thomas continued to struggle with the officers and another unit was requested for assistance.

To get Thomas in the car, the LAPD used a "hobble restraint" device on her ankles, and sat her down in the back of the vehicle. In total, five officers were employed to restrain Thomas.

Minutes later, officers noticed Thomas was not breathing.

Thomas was transported to an area hospital, but died soon after. Her manner of death has been described as "suffocation."

The confrontation between Thomas and the officers outside her South Los Angeles apartment was caught on tape via the patrol car's camera.

In addition to the LAPD release not mentioning the possible "stomping" of Thomas in the genital area by a female officer, one neighbor who saw the arrest told the L.A. Times "he did not see officers do anything wrong and described Thomas as the aggressor."

Thomas' death and the "use of force" investigation have come to light on the heels of the revelation a woman pulled over for a traffic stop in the Foothill Division is alleging officers roughed her up while detaining her. That incident was also captured on video, which shows officers taking the woman down to the ground twice, and giving each other a fist bump after securing her in the back of the car.

Of the Thomas case, Chief Charlie Beck says:

“I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously and directed that the officers involved be removed from field duties until further details are known, including what part intoxicants and physical conditions contributed. I’m confident we will get to the truth, no matter where that leads us.”