The news follows a separate incident of alleged police misconduct in which a surveillance camera caught two LAPD officers body-slamming a handcuffed nurse to the ground and then exchanging a fist bump during an arrest last week.
“I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously and directed that the officers involved be removed from field duties until further details are known, including what part intoxicants and physical conditions contributed,” Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement regarding the July death.
“I’m confident we will get to the truth, no matter where that leads us,” he said. Beck previously said he had “serious concerns” about the body-slamming incident and relieved both officers involved from field duties. At least five officers are under investigation in the July 22 death of Alesia Thomas, a mother arrested for child endangerment after she abandoned her two children – ages 12 and 3 – at a police station, police said.
Thomas, 35, reportedly surrendered the kids around 2 a.m. because she had a substance abuse problem and felt she could not care for them. “The officer said, ‘Hey, what are you kids doing here?’ They said, ‘Well our mom doesn’t want us anymore. She dropped us off at the police station,’” Cmdr. Andrew Smith told KTTV.
Smith said the children complained that they hadn’t eaten for a couple days. Police tracked Thomas down at her residence in south Los Angeles and attempted to arrest her for child endangerment, according to an official LAPD account.
She "began actively resisting arrest," cops said, so an officer performed a leg sweep and took Thomas to the ground to gain control. Two others handcuffed Thomas behind her back and attempted to lead her to a patrol car while a supervising sergeant observed, police said.
Thomas reportedly continued to struggle with the officers and another unit was requested for assistance. The officers placed a “hobble restraint device” – an adjustable strap – on her ankles and then placed her in a seated position in the back seat of the car, police said.
According to a police statement, officers noticed Thomas did not appear to be breathing within minutes of her placement in the car and immediately called paramedics.