At least five LAPD officers are under investigation in the death of a woman who suffocated while being taken into custody, police officials confirmed Thursday.
The altercation in front of her apartment was captured by a patrol car’s video camera.
LAPD Deputy Chief Bob Green confirmed that one officer, while trying to get Alesia Thomas into the back of a patrol car, told her something along the lines of “get your fat *ss in the car.”
The female officer then threatened to kick Thomas in the genitals if she did not comply, Green confirmed, and the officer followed through on her threat.
After officers forced her into the back seat of the police car, Thomas is also seen on the video breathing shallowly and she eventually stopped breathing.
“I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement late Thursday. “I am confident we will get to the truth no matter where that leads us.”
The incident comes a day after Beck announced he was transferring a captain from his command after a separate videotaped incident in which two officers were shown slamming a handcuffed woman to the ground.
Beck had said that video raised concerns and that the department was investigating the officers, who have been removed from field duty.
The Thomas case occurred July 22 after she had left her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at the LAPD’s Southeast Area station, according to an account of the death the department released the following day.
Officers went in search of Thomas, finding her at her home in the 9000 block of South Broadway.
After questioning her briefly, the officers attempted to arrest Thomas on suspicion of child endangerment.
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 an officers questionable treatment of Thomas.
The department’s official account said the officers immediately notified paramedics.
Beck’s statement said he wanted to find out whether Thomas had been under the influence of any drugs or suffered from a medical condition that could have caused her death before he passed judgment on the officers.
Four police officers and the sergeant were removed from field duties immediately after the incident.
Investigators from the department’s Internal Affairs unit opened an investigation into the death, Green said.