The trial of LAPD officer Mary O’Callaghan took a dramatic turn in court this week, with a fellow officer stating he wasn’t sure why Alesia Thomas was under arrest. We also watched the entire video of the incident, which differs from published media accounts. O’Callaghan is being charged with using excessive force, under the color of the law, on Alesia Thomas, as she sat cuffed and bound in the back of a LAPD squad car.
The jury made up of 15 women and 1 man, heard from an emergency room physician and Officer Warner Carias, on events surrounding the death of Alesia Thomas that occurred July 22, 2012. There is only one African-American juror.
The physician testified as to how a person’s body will respond to distress in their heart. He testified that a person in distress will not want to sit back, but would rather want to remain in an upright position. As the jury watched the video of Alesia Thomas in the back of the police car, she was told to lie back, which she repeatedly says she could not. Her hands were cuffed behind her back and an apparatus was placed on her feet. O’Callaghan was in the process of attaching the apparatus to a hook on the back of the driver’s seat of the car, when she yelled expletives at Alesia Thomas, then subsequently choked her and kicked her multiple times.
In the early morning hours of July 22nd, Alesia Thomas dropped her two children off to the police station, near her home on 91st and Broadway. The children were in possession of their clothes and a phone number to their grandmother. After the officers spoke with the children, they then proceeded to Alesia Thomas’ home. After identifying themselves, Alesia Thomas asked “do you have my kids”? The officers responded affirmatively and gained entrance to her home.
One of the two officers who were sent to her home, Officer Carias, testified he called his watch commander to state they made contact with the mother. He then testified he observed his partner trying to prevent Alesia Thomas from leaving her home and subsequently assisted with arresting her. Under questioning from the prosecutor, Officer Carias was not able to articulate why Alesia Thomas was under arrest. Media reports have suggested it was for child abandonment, but Officer Carias was not able to corroborate that claim. He could only corroborate she appeared to be “on something”. Officer Carias further testified there was not enough slack on the apparatus to hook her appropriately.
Carias also stated that Alesia Thomas was handcuffed inside her apartment, which contradicts “witness” statements given from the public.
The jury then watched the in-car video in its entirety which ran from 2:42 am to approx. 2:55 am, with Alesia Thomas visibly in distress and posing no threat to O’Callaghan. This indicates the force O’Callaghan used was unwarranted and substantiated, which ultimately led to charges being filed against her. The video does not show Alesia Thomas either kicking at the window or at O’Callaghan, as previously reported in the Huffington Post. You can hear officers discussing Alesia Thomas becoming unresponsive and no one wanting to call for an “RA”.
Carias also revealed that in-car cameras use a separate battery and because the battery was low, it automatically shuts off, thus the reasoning why the video abruptly shuts off.
Related article: LAPD Press Release details a “violent struggle”
The coroner’s report found Alesia Thomas’ cause of death to be inconclusive because she had cocaine in her system and they were not able to determine if she died from the drugs or the injuries from O’Callaghan. The report did NOT cite the drugs as a major contributing factor as previously reported.
Alesia Thomas’ children’s attorney Benjamin Crump, her mother Sandra Thomas, activist Najee Ali, 2 Urban Girls and other supporters, were in court in support of the family.
The trial will resume on Tuesday, May 26th, at 9:00 am at 210 Temple Street on the 9th floor in Division 108, with Officer Carias back on the stand. The trial is expected to last until the first week of June. O’Callaghan faces up to three years in state prison if convicted.