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After mother dies during arrest, officials reassure parents

September 7, 2012 |  3:24 pm

Alesia Thomas
The case of a woman who was arrested after she surrendered her children to police -- and died in custody -- is a tragedy that should not be repeated, officials said.

At a news conference on Friday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles Police Department officials and the county Department of Children and Family Services tried to reassure parents that they can utilize Los Angeles safe houses and children’s services without fear.

In July, Alesia Thomas left her 3-year-old and 12-year-old children at the LAPD's Southeast Area station  because she was a drug addict and felt she could not care for them, authorities said.

Officers later searched for Thomas and arrested her on suspicion of child endangerment. During the arrest, authorities confirmed that an officer stomped on her genital area and used additional force.

After officers forced Thomas into the back seat of the police car, she is seen on the video breathing shallowly; she eventually stopped breathing.

At least five officers are under investigation in connection to the death.

While officials Friday stopped sort of commenting specifically on the Thomas case, they stressed that the investigation would be thorough and transparent.

“This is a tragedy we wish to avoid and not see happen again,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Any time an incident like this takes place, it is not simply a matter of investigation, it is a matter of review of policy to make sure that whatever factors might have contributed to the tragic results are not repeated.”

Standing outside the Department of Children and Family Services Vermont corridor office, less than two miles from where Thomas was arrested, LAPD Cmdr. Bill Scott said that police facilities are "safe houses" for parents to bring their children with trained officers at the ready.

"There are procedures and there are resources, and the name of the game is getting the resources to the individuals that need them," Scott said.


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Photo: Ada Moses, center, holds a photo of her granddaughter, Alesia Thomas, who died in police custody on July 22. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times