At least five LAPD officers are under internal investigation for a South Los Angeles arrest in which a woman "suffocated after an officer stomped on her genital area and others used additional force to take her into custody," Joel Rubin of the LA Times reports. The suspect who was being arrested, Alesia Thomas, was described as large and not cooperative with police who came to talk to her after she left her two children at the LAPD’s Southeast Area station. Some of what happened next was caught on a patrol car's video camera, the LAT story says.
Thomas “began actively resisting arrest” as officers attempted to take her into custody and one of the officers took her to the ground by sweeping her legs out from beneath her, the LAPD’s official account said. Two other officers then handcuffed Thomas behind her back and attempted to lead her to a patrol car while a supervising sergeant observed, according to the department’s version of the incident.
Two more officers were summoned to the scene as Thomas continued to struggle. Green confirmed that Thomas was a very large woman. A “hobble restraint device” – an adjustable strap – was tightened around Thomas' ankles to give the officers more control over her and she was eventually placed in the back of the patrol car, the LAPD account said.
The official account, however, made no mention of what Green confirmed was a female officer’s questionable treatment of Thomas.
The department’s official account said the officers immediately notified paramedics. It is unclear whether the officers attempted to resuscitate her and how much time passed before paramedics arrived to render medical aid. Thomas died shortly after being transported to a hospital.
Four officers and the sergeant were removed from field duties after the incident, says the story. "I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement. "I am confident we will get to the truth no matter where that leads us."
Just yesterday, Beck removed the commander of the Foothill area station for not properly handling the report that two officers bodyslammed a handcuffed woman during a traffic stop — an incident also caught on video.