Less than an hour after she was booked on suspicion of prostitution, 40-year-old Angela Slack was found hanging by her neck in a Los Angeles police cell, barely alive.
Now, months after the homeless woman died in a hospital from her self-inflicted injury, family members are demanding to know how she could have been allowed to die, and have accused the LAPD of negligence.
“We wrote to the LAPD for information and requested any videos, any photographs. They just didn’t respond to us,” said James Morris, an attorney representing her family. “The family is entitled to know how Angela died and why.”
In a recent report to the police commission, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said investigators found that Slack used her shirt and a restraining ring in her cell to do herself harm. As a result of this finding, the LAPD has ordered all similar ring restraints removed from LAPD holding cells.
“They should have all been removed already,” LAPD Cmdr. Sean Malinowski said Wednesday.
Slack died at Providence Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills six days after she was found unconscious in a Foothill Division cell on March 12, 2015. The Los Angeles County coroner ruled her death suicide by hanging.
In his report to the police commission, Beck said Slack was placed in a Foothill station holding cell at 6:12 p.m. on the day of her arrest. She appeared to be under the influence of a stimulant or alcohol, but she was not incoherent, the report said.
Her cell was outfitted with a metal bench 18.5 inches high that ran the length of the room. Roughly 20 inches above the bench, a mounting cleat with a 2-inch metal ring was fixed to the wall, according to the report. From the ring hung a 3-inch oval clamp and a 9-inch chain with a single handcuff at the end. Slack, however, was never secured to the bench.
A surveillance camera captured the cell door closing, as well as Slack's movements up until 6:35 p.m. After that, she moved to a portion of the cell that could not be observed by the camera, according to the report.
At 6:44 p.m., a station typist walked past the cell and noticed that Slack was “sitting on the edge of the bench" with her stomach "sticking out." The typist noted also that the arrestee's "eyes were closed, her shirt was tied around her neck and she looked dead.”
Officers found that Slack’s long sleeve shirt was wrapped around her neck, while one of the sleeves was looped through one of the restraining rings. A sergeant used a custodian’s knife to cut her down, while fellow officers performed CPR and applied a defibrillator as they were waiting for paramedics.
Slack’s family now blames the LAPD for her death. On Tuesday, they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the department.
“Once a police officer engages her and takes her into LAPD custody they have a responsibility for her health,” Morris said. “She was arrested for prostitution; a homeless woman, one of the many people disregarded in America that no one seems to care about, and they treated her that way.”