Officer Mary O’Callaghan a seasoned, LAPD officer, was sentenced to 36 months in jail after being found guilty of assault under cover of authority. LAPD dash cam footage played to the jury during the trial showed O’Callaghan striking and repeatedly kicking a handcuffed woman during a 2012 arrest. Alesia Thomas, the 35-year-old woman being arrested, died shortly after the incident. This case received national attention that added fuel to the conversation about the excessive use of force by police on (often black) citizens.
The footage from two separate cameras (showing footage from inside and outside the squad car) shows O’Callaghan attacking Thomas. Thomas passed out after being kicked to the ground by the officer. The footage shows O’Callaghan using force that resulted in Thomas losing consciousness. While trying to enter the police car, Thomas uttered, “I can’t move. I can’t breathe,” which prompted further physicality from O’Callaghan. Thomas asked the officers for an ambulance, but one wasn’t called until 30 minutes after her request.
The Los Angeles County coroner classified the cause of Thomas’s death as “undetermined,” but ruled that cocaine intoxication was a “major factor.” O’Callaghan was not implicated in the death, but was instead charged with assault (and was suspended from the LAPD).
A jury found O’Callaghan guilty on June 5, 2015. The video footage played a major role in the case because it clearly refuted the defense’s claims that the officer had not used excessive force.
Alesia Thomas, was 35 when she died. She is survived by her mother, Sandra Thomas, who spoke during the sentencing ruling, imploring why O’Callaghan could not have been more sympathetic toward her daughter. In her first public statement since the 2012 arrest, O’Callaghan said to Sandra Thomas, “Mother to mother, I am extremely sorry for the loss of your daughter.”
Although she received a 3-year sentence, the judge suspended the last 20 months, so O’Callaghan could potentially be released for good behavior within 5 months.