Police Claimed Woman “Hung Herself” — Until Coroner Found NO Evidence of Such Suicide

Philip Janquart | Courthouse News Service

Family Doubts L.A. Story of Suicide

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles claims a woman died by hanging herself in police custody, but an autopsy showed “no evidence of injury to the neck,” her family claims in court.

Angela Slack died under “suspicious” circumstances six days after she was arrested by L.A. police her family claims in an April 12 lawsuit against the City and County of Los Angeles.

Slack was arrested “allegedly for prostitution” on March 12, 2015, according to the complaint in Superior Court.

She was detained at the Foothills Division of the LAPD in Northridge, where she allegedly fashioned a hangman’s noose with her own shirt and hung herself, according to a police report.

On March 13, Slack was taken to Providence Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills, where she arrived unconscious and was diagnosed with anoxic brain injury and seizures, the complaint states.

“Ms. Slack also had multiple injuries, including but not limited to: a sizable blister wound in the middle of her chest with ‘zig-zag’ marks up her right breast; wound marks and erythema on her neck; bruises and abrasions on her arms, legs and pelvic region; and a head wound,” according to the complaint from her mother Virginia Wheeler and son Jonathon Goetz.

They claim that Slack suffered the injuries — which included seizures, cardiac arrest, lack of oxygen and asthma attacks — as a result of her arrest and that she “was already experiencing these symptoms before she was placed in her holding area/hallway.”

“Defendants intentionally or deliberately failed to provide the required treatment for her needs until it was too late,” the complaint states. “Defendants delayed medical care to Ms. Slack despite knowing that doing so would greatly enhance her risk of harm.”

Slack died on March 18, five days after being admitted to Holy Cross.

Despite the conclusion of suicide, the autopsy report nonetheless shows “no evidence of injury to the neck,” according to the complaint.

“I can tell you the suspicious part is the fact she doesn’t have a broken neck or damage to her trachea, no typical evidence you would find in a hanging case,” the family’s attorney James Morris told Courthouse News.

“How the coroner came to that conclusion is a mystery, unless you believe the story that she took her shirt off, fashioned a noose and hung it on a hook that was in her cell. What is a hook doing in a cell?”

Regardless of the details of the arrest and the alleged suicide, Wheeler and Goetz say Slack should have been properly monitored.

“Ms. Slack’s holding area/hallway should have been monitored by at least one on-duty officer at reasonable intervals,” the complaint states. “Defendants had actual knowledge or should have known of Ms. Slack’s emotional and mental instability and therefore should have taken steps to eliminate the possibility that she would pose a risk of harm to herself.”

“My position is that once the authorities take a person into custody, they have the duty to make sure that person is monitored appropriately,” Morris said. “The allegation is that they didn’t have video in that area or an officer monitoring the area.”

Morris said Slack should have been handcuffed while in the holding cell, and failure to do so constitutes gross negligence.

The lawsuit claims the City and County of Los Angeles have a practice and pattern of preparing “investigative reports which uncritically rely solely on the word of police officers involved in fatal incidents,” and “investigative reports which omit factual information and physical evidence that contradict the accounts of the police officers involved.”

The family seeks punitive damages for deprivation of life without due process, interference with parent-child relationship, failure to provide medical care while in police custody, failure to provide protective care while in police custody, municipal liability, wrongful death and survivorship.

Published by Courthouse News Service.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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