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LAPD officer charged with assault in woman's arrest

Law EnforcementAbusive BehaviorHomicideLos Angeles Police DepartmentJustice System

An LAPD officer has been charged with assaulting a woman under color of authority by kicking her in the groin during an arrest last year, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced Thursday.

LAPD Officer Mary O’Callaghan, 48, was charged Wednesday in connection with the July 22, 2012, incident that ended with the death of Alesia Thomas.

O'Callaghan was one of several officers sent to Thomas' home in the 9100 block of South Broadway Avenue to investigate allegations that Thomas had abandoned her children after they were left at a local police station.

O’Callaghan arrived at the scene to assist the arresting officers in placing Thomas in a patrol car. While Thomas was in handcuffs and leg restraints, prosecutors said, a police cruiser’s video camera captured the veteran officer kicking Thomas in the stomach and groin area and pushing her in the throat.

Thomas, once inside the patrol car, lost consciousness and paramedics were called. Shortly afterward, she was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Prosecutors on Thursday said they declined to charge O'Callaghan with involuntary manslaughter because of insufficient evidence to prove her conduct caused Thomas’ death.

O'Callaghan's attorney, Robert Rico, could not be reached for comment. O'Callaghan is a 19-year veteran of the LAPD.

But the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League issued a statement.

“While I cannot comment on the specific incident because I have not seen the video and the officer involved has her own legal counsel, the alleged actions of the officer are incongruous with her reputation as an officer who was known to be diligent, courteous and ethical,” said Tyler Izen. “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.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck previously criticized the officer's actions.

In a report to the Police Commission, the civilian board that oversees the LAPD, Beck concluded -- without naming O'Callaghan -- that a veteran female officer violated department policies by repeatedly using her feet to kick or shove Alesia Thomas in her genitals and midsection.

The same officer, the chief and the commission found, showed "apparent indifference" toward Thomas as she cursed at the mother of two young children during the messy effort to restrain her and place her in the back of a police cruiser.

Beck also raised concerns about the actions of three additional officers and a supervisor during the confrontation.

Two of the officers disregarded Thomas' request for medical help, while the third cop may have lied to investigators about the incident, Beck wrote in a report.

The five-member Police Commission agreed with the chief's finding that the female officer's forceful use of her feet was "ineffective and inappropriate," according to a commission report on the incident.

An autopsy by the L.A. County coroner determined that cocaine intoxication probably was "a major factor" in Thomas' death. It was impossible to determine what role, if any, the struggle with the officers played in the 35-year-old woman's death.

Because of that uncertainty, the official cause of death was listed as "undetermined."

The Times reported previously on the alleged kicks by the female officer and Thomas' odd decision to abandon her children outside the LAPD's Southeast area station, which led to the fatal confrontation with police.

Hours before she died, Thomas, who suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and drug addiction according to the autopsy report, had left her children, a 3-year-old and a 12-year-old, outside the station, according to a department account of the incident.

Initially, police reported that Thomas was attempting to surrender the children to police custody because she felt she could no longer care for them properly.

In his report, however, Beck said, it appeared Thomas expected her mother to pick the children up at the station.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Law EnforcementAbusive BehaviorHomicideLos Angeles Police DepartmentJustice System
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