The meeting was contentious before it even began. Attendees’ voices grew louder as they repeatedly chanted the name of Wakiesha Wilson, who died two years ago while in police custody.
Just after the Los Angeles Police Commission meeting began Tuesday morning, the board’s president, Steve Soboroff, called a recess after a woman interrupted him and accused police officials of lying about how Wilson died.
Wilson, 36, was found dead inside her cell at the LAPD Metropolitan Detention Center in 2016. Her death has been ruled a suicide — a finding her family has rejected.
At the police commission meeting, Wilson’s aunt, Sheila Hines-Brim, and her mother, Lisa Hines, sat in the front row. Hines-Brim repeatedly flashed her middle finger at the officials sitting at the table in front of her, including Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.
About 20 minutes into the meeting, after some of the attendees were told to leave because of repeated interruptions, Hines-Brim walked toward Beck and threw a handful of a white, powdery substance in his direction. Some of it landed on Beck, police said.
“That’s Wakiesha,” Hines-Brim said as she walked away.
“That’s Wakiesha!” she said again, her voice louder. “She’s going to stay with you!”
Beck ordered an officer to arrest Hines-Brim, prompting other attendees to stand up and begin screaming.
The meeting abruptly ended, and the room was cleared.
Hazmat and fire crews were called to ensure that the substance wasn’t hazardous, the Los Angeles Police Department said. Authorities later confirmed that it wasn’t, though they have not determined what it was, Joshua Rubenstein, the police department’s spokesman, said.
Hines-Brim and another woman, Melina Abdullah, were booked on suspicion of battery on a police officer. The agency said Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter activist and a professor at California State University at Los Angeles, assaulted an officer before the meeting room was cleared.
Abdullah said she and Hines-Brim were falsely arrested. Gina Viola, who said she was at the meeting and was standing next to Abdullah, said Abdullah never touched an officer and was forcibly taken away.
The women were later released, Abdullah tweeted Tuesday night.
“I used her ashes so they can be with him, so he can feel her, because he murdered her,” Hines-Brim said after her release from jail, according to KCBS. “They covered it up.”
Asked by a reporter how she felt after her arrest, she said: “I feel satisfied.”
Beck, who was seen by a medical personnel and did not require any treatment, said in a statement that the actions of the women were “disrespectful.”
“This only created chaos and fear for any Angelenos who wanted to voice their opinion about policing in our city,” he said.
Wilson was arrested March 26, 2016, after she was accused of assaulting a patient at a Los Angeles hospital, police said.
The following morning, she was found unconscious in her jail cell. A coroner’s report said she had hanged herself.
Her death triggered protests from her family and Black Lives Matter activists, some of whom said Wilson wouldn’t have killed herself and believed that an altercation involving officers was to blame, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Authorities said there was no evidence that officers used force against Wilson. After her death, the department reviewed practices on when to seek mental health assistance for an inmate and how family should be notified about deaths. Wilson’s mother didn’t find out that her daughter had died until after she had missed a court hearing, the Times reported.
In December, city officials agreed to pay nearly $300,000 to settle wrongful-death claims filed by Wilson’s relatives.
The ruckus at the commission board meeting came two weeks after KNBC reported that a detention officer was fired following Wilson’s death.
The NBC affiliate cited internal affairs and personnel files that showed the officer, Reaunna Bratton, was fired late last year over allegations that she had failed to immediately render medical aid to Wilson. Bratton also had been accused of violating jail policies by improperly isolating Wilson in an individual cell on the day she died.