Wakiesha Wilson
Wakiesha Wilson

The Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners has ruled that the actions of four officers did not contribute to the death a woman who authorities say committed suicide in a jail cell.

Several dozen audience members, who had been waiting for hours while the board deliberated behind closed doors, exploded with rage and hurled profanities at the board when the decision was announced.

Wakiesha Wilson, 36, died at County-USC Medical Center on March 27, 2016, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Throughout the tense open session Tuesday, many speakers prompted audience members to chant Wilson’s name and disrupt the meeting while demanding the department release any video of Wilson’s time in jail.

Wilson’s mother filed a $35 million claim against the city in September that seeks answers about her daughter’s death.

One speaker, who identified himself as Joseph Williams, pointed to Wilson’s mother in the audience and said, “What we are asking for is justice for this woman. This woman has been tormented by not knowing what happened to her daughter. We need you all to release those tapes.”

The meeting had to go into recess for about 20 minutes so one woman could be removed from the audience after refusing to be quiet.

Board President Matthew Johnson read a statement to the audience, and said, “On behalf of the commission, I want to again extend our condolences for the death of Ms. Wilson to her mother, Ms. Hines, her children, family and friends. Any loss of life is tragic and I know this has been especially heart breaking and difficult for her loved ones and friends.”

Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said an autopsy determined that Wilson’s death was a suicide by hanging, but Wilson’s family has raised questions about her death, insisting she was not despondent and would not have taken her own life.

The LAPD said in April it was conducting an internal investigation to determine if officers “complied with LAPD’s policies and procedures.”

The board reviewed Chief Charlie Beck’s recommendations that the four officers should not be disciplined and agreed with it.

According to Beck’s report on Wilson’s death, Wilson was arrested by Central Area patrol officers on March 26, 2016, after they responded to a medical facility on the 1300 block of Hope Street to investigate a 911 call regarding a person assaulting a patient.

Wilson was determined to be the person who assaulted another patient, was arrested and brought to the Central Station.

The names of the four officers who were investigated regarding Wilson’s death are redacted from Beck’s report, which said a lieutenant reported Wilson did not appear to have any signs of mental illness and was “very coherent and forthright.’

After being taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center, Beck wrote that Wilson had been assessed by the Central Division watch commander, a detention center nurse and a physician assistant prior to her booking.

When being booked, Wilson told officers she was cold and requested a long-sleeve shirt, which she was given, Beck wrote.

Officers reported Wilson “was a little out of it,” and uncooperative at times while in custody, Beck wrote.

A witness — presumably Wilson’s cell mate or a nearby inmate– reported that Wilson called to officers on the intercom saying, “I’m suicidal,” but LAPD officers on duty said Wilson did not make any suicidal statements, Beck wrote.

At about 8:25 a.m. on March 27, detention center personnel conducted a safety check of Wilson’s cell and found she had hung herself with her garment, Beck wrote, and added that officers tried to revive Wilson with CPR but were unsuccessful.

Johnson also said the commission was calling for a review of all in- custody deaths that occurred in LAPD jail facilities over the last five years, a review of department policies and procedures regarding the intake, screening and classification of arrestees, and development of a codified review and adjudication process for all in-custody deaths.

–City News Service

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