It’s been five months since 35-year-old Alesia Thomas died in police custody last July and her family is still at a loss for answers. Thomas, who struggled with drug addiction, died in the back of a police car after having her hands and feet bound by officers.
The incident was captured on an officer’s dash-cam, but Thomas’ family has yet to see the tape. They fear LAPD officials are attempting to hide evidence.
Thomas’ family is suing the city to gain access to the video they hope will give more information about how she died.
“We have the right to see how they treated my daughter,” Sandra Thomas told MSNBC news. “And I believe someone is hiding something from us.”
The tragic incident began after Thomas dropped her children, 12 and 3, off at a local police station and said she was a drug addict who was could not properly care for them. When police went to Thomas’ home to arrest her for child endangerment, a tense confrontation ensued that left her dead.
Earlier public statements from the police described the confrontation between Thomas and a least five police officers in violent and dramatic terms. Just hours before Thomas’ encounter with police, she reportedly dropped off her two children, 12 and 3, at a South Los Angeles police station, saying later that she was a drug addict and struggling to support her family. Officers later tracked down the distraught mother at her home, where police arrested her on Child Endangerment charges.
As officers attempted to take Thomas into custody, they said she began “violently” resisting arrest. One officer then took her down with a “leg sweep.” At some point during the struggle, according to eye-witness reports, officers yelled out profanities and disparaging comments about the woman’s weight.
One female officer then threatened to kick the woman in the genitals if she didn’t calm down and comply, a threat the officer then carried out. Thomas continued to resist, police say, so officers placed her in a “hobble restraint device,” essentially hog-tying her by securing her ankles to her handcuffed hands.
Within minutes Thomas was dead in the backseat of a police cruiser.
Despite admitting that the dash-cam video “revealed some questionable tactics and improper comments,” LAPD officials told the Los Angeles Times they will not release the video until their investigation is complete. But for Thomas’ family, that isn’t enough.
Benjamin Crump, a Thomas family attorney and an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family, told MSNBC.com: “It’s really straightforward and clear. How long before they release this video? What is it they don’t want us to see? That’s the simple crux of the matter here. If this was your family and you lost a loved one in police custody and they tell you they have a video but they don’t want to show it to you, that’s insult to injury.”
According to the LAPD they are taking this investigation seriously and will pursue the appropriate action against the officers involved if necessary, but Thomas’ family wants to judge for themselves. They hope the video detailing Alesia’s final minutes will help them find out what really happened that day.
*Photo via The L.A. Times