Family Seeks Answers After Woman Dies in LAPD Custody

In-car video captured the arrest of a 35-year-old mother who died July 22 in police custody

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Alesia Thomas died July 22 after she was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment at a residence in which she lived with her two children, ages 3 and 12. Her mother, Sandra, has hired an attorney, who is demanding to see in-car video of Thomas arrest. Patrick Healy reports from Downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2012.

    The mother of a woman whose daughter died in police custody said she would "like to bring some closure" to a case that raised concerns among LAPD officials after they viewed in-car video of the 35-year-old mother's arrest.

    "It's a horrible loss," Sandra Thomas told NBC4. "It broke my family chain. God called us one by one. Maybe our chain will reunite again."

    LAPD Video of Woman's Arrest Raised Concerns

    [LA] LAPD Video of Woman's Arrest Raised Concerns
    The mother of a woman who died in police custody describes her daughter's death as a "horrible loss." LAPD officials are investigating the case of Alesia Thomas' July 22 arrest. Toni Guinyard reports for the NBC4 News Aug. 31, 2012 from Temple City.

    Alesia Thomas died July 22 after she was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment at a residence in which she lived with her two children, ages 3 and 12. Officers went to the home after Thomas dropped them off at the LAPD's Southeast Division station, according to police.

    It was not immediately clear how much of the arrest was captured on the responding officers' in-car camera, but the video is part of the LAPD's use-of-force and misconduct investigations into Thomas' death. Commander Andrew Smith told NBC4 that LAPD officials "saw some things on that video that were a concern to them."

    "My Granddaughter Was So Good to Me"

    [LA] Grandmother of Woman Who Died in Police Custody Asks for Truth
    "My granddaughter was so good to me, come get me and buy stuff for me all the time," said Ada Moses, the grandmother of a woman who died in police custody. Janet Kwak reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Thursday, August 30, 2012.

    "Some of the language that was used, the use of force that was used, those were things that were concerns," Smith said, adding that four officers and a supervisor responded to the home.

    Thomas' mother has hired an attorney, who told NBC4 he would like to view the video. Smith did not say whether the video would be released.

    "We need to see the video," said attorney Sumit Raghuvanshi. "We need to move forward with the facts. We need to question the officers. We need to see why this poor woman died in a police car without getting aid."

    The officers called paramedics to the 9000 block of South Broadway immediately after they noticed Thomas was not breathing in the back of the squad car, Smith said.

    Officers responded to the home after Thomas' two children, carrying backpacks with clothes, entered the Southeast Division station at about 2 a.m. July 22. The officer at the desk asked why they were at the station.

    "They informed him that their mother didn't want them any more and dropped them off in front of the police station," Smith said.

    The children were taken to a fast-food restaurant before they were transferred to Department of Children and Family Services custody. They now live with Sandra Thomas.

    Officers responded to the mother's South Broadway residence, where they were involved in a struggle with Thomas as they attempted to take her into custody, according to police.

    "They tried to get her in the back of the police car," Smith said. "They had some difficulty doing that. At least one use-of-force occurred inside the premises, and then they had some difficulty getting her inside of the police car."

    Thomas stopped breathing in the back of the squad car, according to police. She was transported to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

    The police chief was informed of the woman's death July 22, and the chief and senior LAPD staff were briefed on the altercation within 72 hours, Smith said.

    "Those (video) images were discussed at our 72-hour briefing and an investigation was launched by our internal affairs group," Smith said.

    The case now involves two separate investigations -- a categorical use-of-force investigation, conducted by the LAPD Force Investigation Division, and the midconduct investigation by the LAPD Internal Affairs Group.

    The investigations are likely to require more than one month to complete.

    The four officers and supervisor involved in the arrest have been assigned to administrative duties at the police station.

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