What happened to Alesia Thomas?
October 15, 2012
Rodney King’s death unleashed the worst in LA’s finest.
The body was barely cold before crooked cops declared open season on use-of-force, with an orgy of unconscionable wilding.
Meet Alesia Thomas, LAPD’s new brutality pin-up. A month after King died, the 35-year-old black single mother was slammed to the ground, handcuffed behind her back, kicked in the groin, hog-tied and stuffed into the back seat of a patrol car, where she died. Every second of the altercation was captured on videotape.
Like Tupac, “I don’t hate cops. I hate crooked cops”.
Where in the LAPD Use-Of-Force Policy Report does it authorize police officers to subdue female suspects by kicking them in the genitals? Who OK’d that?
And how long are we suppose to wait for LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to man up and disclose the details of this tragic July 22 in-custody death?
Alesia’s demise flew under the radar for 40 days – until August 29th when the LAPD went ballistic on a petite white female in Tujunga, just hours before another pack of cops beat the shit out of a skateboarder in Venice. LA Times Metro reporters buried the lead, lumping Alesia’s fatal assault into a roundup piece about LAPD summer violence.
Video of the rampage went viral. Citizen cell phone cameras recorded a white 5’ 4” nurse named Michelle Jordan being body slammed to the pavement by two burly cops, with a flourish of fist-bumps and shit-eating grins – a public display so vile it prompted their boss, Chief Beck, to immediately suspend them both.
But Beck has yet to deal with what cops did to Alesia, according to Benjamin L. Crump, a civil rights attorney representing her family.
The Chief, who made his mark running the 2006 re-launch of the LAPD’s Biggie Smalls murder investigation, will not release the video of Thomas’ deadly arrest, and continues to block disclosure of her coroner toxicology report as well. He won’t even identify the officers involved – even now, 86 days after her death.
That’s why Crump issued an ultimatum this morning, putting Beck on notice that his department has 10 days left to turn over the tape before the family petitions a federal court to force the LAPD to meet its obligation. Crump has already contacted U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for a federal probe into LAPD misconduct.
“Alesia Thomas died in police custody,” Crump said. “The LAPD is withholding a video tape full of evidence, showing exactly what happened. What are they afraid of?”
Crump, a partner in the Tallahassee, Fla.-based civil right practice of Parks and Crump, is no stranger to controversy. He represents the family of Trayvon Martin, the black teen who was fatally shot earlier this year by a white Florida neighborhood watch volunteer. Past clients include relatives of Martin Lee Anderson, a black adolescent who died after being beaten in 2006 by white guards in a Florida youth detention center, plus the family of Genie McMeans Jr., a black motorist who died after being shot in the back by a white state Trooper.
Crump also represents also Ronald Weekley Jr., the student skateboarder who was beaten by police six weeks ago in Venice.
“My daughter turned to police for help, and she wound up dead, in the back of a patrol car,” said Alesia’s mother Sondra Thomas. “Alesia was a sweetheart. She lost her life trying to do the right thing for her kids.”
On July 22, in the early morning hours, depression clouded Alesia’s judgment, relatives say. She was distraught, crushed by the recent death of her father. Bereaved. The pain, she told her mother, was unbearable.
According to people closest to her, she seemed flustered, agitated. Anxious about her 12-year-old son’s obsession with video games. Frustrated by her inability to reign in his behavior. She felt overwhelmed, unfit as a mother, at the end of her rope.
Despite her confusion she moved to protect her kids in accordance with California’s Safe Haven Act, a law designed to address the needs of panicked or overwhelmed parents, to prevent them from abandoning unwanted babies in dangerous locations. Under the Act, counties designate government facilities, such as police and fire stations as Safe Haven sites, where flustered families can turn.
On July 22, at 1:30 a.m., without notifying any one, Alesia rounded up her son and his three-year-old sister and drove them about five minutes away, to LAPD’s South East Station on 108th Street. Stopping at the curb, she handed her son a bag of clothes and provisions, and attached a hand-written note to his shirt. The note explained that Alesia felt she could no longer properly care for her children, and left a phone number where police could contact her mother, Sondra.
After dropping the children at the entrance, Alesia drove off. The sight of two young kids entering the station in the middle of the night caught the cop on duty off guard. He asked the boy how they got there and where his parents lived. A patrol car was dispatched to the address.
The knock at the door startled Alesia. Identifying themselves, officers began grilling her about her kids. Authorities say Alesia grew visibly upset, panicky, after they announced that they intended to arrest her for child endangerment. She resisted being taken into custody.
Things got ugly as police led Alesia outside. She defied attempts to restrain her. She grew intractable. Outnumbered, she lashed out. Finally, an officer standing behind her kicked her legs out from under her, and as she lost her balance, he slammed her to the ground. His partners pounced on her, and handcuffed Alesia’s hands behind her back.
In the heat of the struggle, police called for backup. A second patrol car arrived. Witnesses heard Alesia tell police she was having problems breathing. She complained that her heart hurt, and that she was having difficulty walking. Officers ignored her complaints.
Alesia was so hard to restrain, police hog-tied her legs. During the scuffle, a female officer threatened to kick Alesia in the “genitals” if she did not get into the patrol car, and then followed through on her threat, according to police. The clash ended with officers shoving Alesia’s hog-tied, handcuffed body into the back seat of the patrol car.
Within minutes, she stopped breathing. Paramedics were called, but failed to revive her.
LAPD Cmdr. Bob Green told the LA Times that Alesia had identified herself as a drug addict to police, as if that explained the officers behavior.
“That commander doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Sondra Thomas said. “My daughter was no addict. Had police taken time to investigate, even to just look around the apartment, they would’ve realized she endangered nobody. The refrigerator was full of food. The closets were full of clothes. The place was sparkling clean. She was a loving, caring mother. She was just depressed, that’s all. Now she’s dead.”
After suggesting Alesia was possibly drunk or on drugs, the LAPD ordered a toxicology report. That was three months ago.
On Friday, a representative for the coroner’s office said the report could not be released until detectives in LAPD’s Force Investigation Division finished wrapping up their in-custody death probe.
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