Friday, August 31, 2012
5 LAPD officers under investigation in death of woman
The incident came to light a day after Beck announced he was transferring a captain from his command after a separate videotaped incident in which officers were shown slamming a handcuffed woman to the ground. Beck said that video raised concerns and that the department was investigating the officers.
The Thomas case occurred in the early morning hours of July 22 after she left her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at the LAPD's Southeast Area station, according to a department account released the following day.
Green, who oversees the Southeast Area station, confirmed that Thomas tried to surrender custody of the children to police because she was a drug addict and felt she could not care for them.
Thomas "began actively resisting arrest" and one of the officers took her to the ground by sweeping her legs from beneath her, the LAPD's official account said.
The officers secured her with metal handcuffs and tried to calm her down as she sat against a wall, McCrary said.
"They were talking to her, asking her to calm down, that everything will be all right," he recalled. They brought Thomas some water to drink.
"My heart hurts. I can't walk anymore," he recalled Thomas telling police.
Two officers escorted her down the stairs in her apartment complex, one on each arm. McCrary eventually followed and said he saw Thomas in a patrol car "shaking her head against the back seat." Some time later, he saw her sprawled out on the sidewalk without a blouse. Paramedics had just arrived.
McCrary said police interviewed him on two separate occasions about the incident but never mentioned that Thomas was dead.
Charmaine Hood, McCrary's live-in caregiver, also witnessed Thomas' encounter with police. She said officers were trying to help Thomas.
"I didn't see them try to harm her in any shape or fashion," Hood said. "I seen them protect her from hurting herself." 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 and the department is conducting criminal and administrative investigations into the officers' conduct.
News of the investigation comes after Beck transferred Capt. Joseph Hiltner from the department's Foothill Division following another videotaped police confrontation.
The Aug. 21 incident began when the officers pulled over Michelle Jordan at a Del Taco restaurant in Tujunga because she was holding a cellphone while driving. As the 5-foot 4-inch Jordan left her vehicle, she allegedly failed to comply with officers' commands to get back into the car and was slammed to the ground by the male officers and placed in handcuffs, according to police officials.
While cuffed, she was led to the officers' patrol car. Moments later, she was slammed again to the pavement, apparently with more force, by one of the officers, who was much larger than Jordan, the officials said. The video footage appears to show the two officers exchanging high fives after Jordan was taken down.
Beck said he believed the captain "was severely deficient in his response" for failing to notify superiors and remove the two involved officers from the field. The chief said he ordered the footage shown at roll calls when officers begin their shifts.
Hiltner, a 34-year LAPD veteran, could not be reached for comment.
By Joel Rubin, Angel Jennings and Andrew Blankstein - L.A. TIMES