The 91-year-old grandmother of a woman who died in custody after a female Los Angeles Police Department officer allegedly kicked her while she was handcuffed called for “tough prosecution” of the accused officer.
Officer Mary O’Callaghan, 48, was charged last Wednesday with a single felony count of assault by a public officer for allegedly kicking the handcuffed Alesia Thomas, who later died. An arraignment date was not immediately available.
“I and my other family members want to know the entire truth of how my granddaughter died,” Ada Moses said. “There must be consequences for any officer that acted wrongly in her death.”
Moses’ comments were made at a news conference attended by several civil rights activists, including Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson.
“The charging of O’Callaghan is an important first step toward securing a measure of justice in the horrific and unwarranted assault on Ms. Thomas,” Hutchinson said. “But justice will not be fully served until there is a full public disclosure of all the events surrounding the death of Ms. Thomas and what other officers may or may not have done.”
O’Callaghan was removed from duty and is awaiting an LAPD disciplinary hearing. She faces up to three years in prison, if convicted. Prosecutors plan to ask that her bail be set at $35,000, when she is arraigned.
Robert Rico, O’Callaghan’s attorney, told the Los Angeles Times today his client was “absolutely devastated” by the District Attorney’s Office’s decision to file charges against her.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said O’Callaghan’s actions, “as seen on the video, did not meet the expectations I have of our officers in the field.”
“As troubling as this case is, it demonstrates that our system of discovering misconduct is working, and that we will hold our officers accountable for their actions,” Beck said.
“Every single day LAPD officers are asked to do extraordinary things for people while proudly wearing the LAPD badge. I hope the community recognizes that the act of one officer cannot and should not be an overall reflection of this department.”
Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, said he could not comment on the case, but said O’Callaghan had a good reputation with the department and was known to be “diligent, courteous and ethical.”
“This officer had previously been publicly commended by the LAPD for community efforts and was publicly commended for helping a burglary victim’s family who lost all their presents at Christmas time,” Izen said.
According to police and prosecutors, officers responded to the home of 35-year-old Thomas in the 9100 block of South Broadway Avenue on July 22, 2012, to investigate allegations the woman had abandoned her two children at a police station.
Thomas was arrested, and O’Callaghan helped other officers place the woman—who was handcuffed and wearing leg restraints—in a patrol car.
According to prosecutors, a video camera mounted on a police cruiser captured O’Callaghan kicking the woman in the stomach and groin area and “pushing” her in the throat.
Thomas lost consciousness in the patrol car and paramedics were called. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, prosecutors said.
The coroner’s office performed an autopsy, but the woman’s cause of death was “undetermined,” prosecutors said, noting that there was insufficient evidence to pursue an involuntary manslaughter charge against the 19-year LAPD veteran officer.