Cops reassigned after death of woman arrested

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles police officers involved in the arrest of a 35-year-old woman who died after she stopped breathing in the back of a squad car were off field duty today.

Police Chief Charlie Beck reassigned the officers on Thursday after detectives with the department’s Force Investigation Division found problems with some tactics used during the arrest last month of Alesia Thomas in South Los Angeles.

“An in-car video was reviewed which revealed some questionable tactics and improper comments,” according to an LAPD statement.

One officer threatened to kick Thomas’ genitals during the arrest, then followed through, LAPD Cmdr. Bob Green told the Los Angeles Times, which reported that at least five officers were under investigation.

“I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously and directed the officers involved be removed from field duties until further details are known, including what part intoxicants and physical conditions contributed,” Beck said in a statement. “I’m confident we will get to the truth, no matter where that leads us.”

Beck’s reassignment of the officers in the Thomas case comes one day after he removed Capt. Joseph Hiltner as commanding officer of the Foothill Division for being “severely deficient in his response” to a videotaped arrest last week that left a woman badly bruised.

In the Thomas case, two children, a 3-year-old and a 12-year-old, were abandoned at the LAPD’s Southeast Station on July 22, police said. An officer’s investigation led to their mother, Thomas, and after interviewing her, officers arrested her on suspicion of child endangerment, according to the LAPD statement.

Thomas began resisting arrest and attempting to pull away, according to the department, which said one officer performed a leg sweep and took her to the ground while two others handcuffed her behind her back.

Thomas resisted entering the police car, so officers placed a hobble restraint on her ankles and put her in the back seat in a seated position, police said. Within minutes, they noticed Thomas did not appear to be breathing and immediately called for Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics, the statement said. She was taken to a hospital and died a short time later.

An Internal Affairs investigation, meanwhile, is under way in connection with the arrest of Micelle Jordan, a 34-year-old registered nurse from Sunland. She was arrested in a Del Taco parking lot near Foothill Boulevard and Saluda Avenue in Tujunga around 11:15 a.m. Aug. 21. The arrest was captured on a surveillance video from a nearby business.

Police said Jordan got out of her car and was taken to the ground and handcuffed. After she was handcuffed, she was taken to the ground for a second time. The video shows one of the officers landing on top of her during the arrest.

Jordan was booked for interfering and resisting arrest, and then released on her own recognizance, police said. The officers, one with 22 years of service and the other a probationary officer with 10 months on the job, were reassigned to non-field duties pending the outcome of the investigation, police said.

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