A Los Angeles Police Department officer accused of repeatedly kicking a handcuffed woman who died during an arrest last year was charged Thursday with assaulting an arrestee under color of authority.
Prosecutors declined to file an involuntary manslaughter charge, citing insufficient evidence that the officer's actions caused Alesia Thomas' death in July 2012. A coroner's report found the cause of death was "undetermined."
Officers responded to Thomas' South Broadway Avenue home to investigate a report of child abandonment. Her two children, ages 3 and 12 at the time, were found at the LAPD Southeast Area Station early July 22, 2012.
After an interview with officers, Thomas was handcuffed and placed in leg restraints during her arrest. An LAPD cruiser's in-car camera captured LAPD Officer Mary O'Callaghan kicking Thomas in the "stomach and groin area," according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.
"It's disgusting for a lady, really," said Sandra Thomas, Alesia Thomas' mother.
Summary: Use of Force Incident Report
A Los Angeles Police Commission report determined Thomas resisted officers by kicking and attempting to close the squad car door. She was in the back seat of the vehicle when the officer kicked Thomas seven times, according to the report released in June.
Paramedics responded after the 6-foot, 228-pound Thomas became unconscious in the back of the patrol car. She was transported to a hospital, where she died.
The cause of death was listed as "undetermined," but the autopsy report mentioned cocaine intoxication as a "major" contributing factor. The report stated the struggle with officers "could not be excluded" as a contributing factor.
The 48-year-old officer, an 18-year veteran of the department, was removed from duty without pay and now faces department discipline, but the nature of that discipline is still pending, according to the LAPD.
O'Callaghan's attorney, Robert Rico, said in a statement that his client is "devastated by the DA's decision to file charges."
"However, as an officer, a Marine and a mother, she is used to defending and fighting for others. She will defend and fight in court to prove her innocence," Rico said.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement Thursday that "the officer's actions that day, as seen on the video, did not meet the expectations I have of our officers in the field.
"As troubling as this case is, it demonstrates that our system of discovering misconduct is working, and that we will hold our officers accountable for their actions," Beck said. "Every single day LAPD officers are asked to do extraordinary things for people while proudly wearing the LAPD badge. I hope the community recognizes that the act of one officer cannot and should not be an overall reflection of this Department."
The Los Angeles Police Commission also issued a statement after the DA's office announced charges.
"It was the Los Angeles Police Department that brought this case to the District Attorney for consideration of criminal filing," said Police Commission President Steve Soboroff. "LAPD holds its employees accountable for their actions both administratively and criminally."
Prosecutors plan to ask bail be set at $35,000. Details regarding a court date were not immediately available.
If convicted, O'Callaghan could spend up to three years in state prison.
NBC4's Beverly White contributed to this report.
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