Two women were detained after the ashes of a woman who died in police custody were flung at Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck during a police commission meeting Tuesday morning, officials said.
The two women were booked on suspicion of battery on a police officer after the incident occurred around 10:15 a.m., in the middle of the commissioners’ meeting, though only one was involved in throwing the substance, LAPD said in a news release.
One of the woman arrested, Sheila Brim-Hines, said she the tossed the ashes to make Beck contend with the death of her niece Wakeisha Wilson, who was found dead in her jail cell in March 2016. Her death has officially been ruled a suicide, but her family contends that.
A nearly $200,000 settlement with Wilson’s relatives was approved by the Los Angeles City Council late last year.
Hines spoke to reporters after being released from custody on bail Tuesday night and said she felt vindicated.
“I used her ashes so they could be with him, so he can feel her, because he murdered her,” she said. “I feel satisfied, because I completed what Wakiesha told me to do.”
In footage from the meeting, a gray-tinged puff can be seen escaping Hines’ hands before she’s heard shouting, “That’s Wakiesha. She’s gonna stay with you.”
A portion did land on Beck, but he did not require any sort of medical treatment as a result, officials said.
The meeting was then immediately adjourned, according to LAPD Officer Meghan Aguilar.
Hazardous materials investigators and Los Angeles Fire Department officials are working to officially identify the substance, which they said would take at least a day.
The second person detained, Melina Abdullah, is also accused of battery on a police officer. But Abdullah believes she was targeted for arrest as a silencing tactic.
“I wasn’t even in the room a good 60 seconds before they grabbed me,” she told KTLA. “Everyone knows when I’m there, I speak. I sometimes speak powerfully and strongly, but everyone knows that there’s no history of violence.”
People at the meeting said Abdullah was arrested just as attendees were struggling to leave the room and some sort of scuffle broke out.
“Prior to the room being cleared, Abdullah assaulted a police officer and was detained,” officials said in a release.
Activists at the meeting identified Abdullah to the Los Angeles Times as a Black Lives Matter activist and Cal State L.A. professor.
Both women were released on $20,000 bond, inmate records show. If formal charges are brought, both women have pledged to contest them.
In a statement, Beck called their actions both disrespectful to his office as well as the goal of the commission, which aims to serve as a bridge between the LAPD and the communities it polices.
“Our Police Commission is the model for civilian oversight in every major city across the country, and is designed to invite productive discourse in a public setting,” he said. “This only created chaos and fear for any Angelinos who wanted to voice their opinion about policing in our city.”
The 2016 death of Wilson drew outrage from her family and the community. She was found hanging in her jail cell just a day after being arrested on suspicion of battery, the Los Angeles Times reported.
On Tuesday, her mother told KTLA that her death was a cover-up and police are lying about what really happened.
Just weeks after her death, in April 2016, an attorney for Wilson’s family told the Times there were no signs she was distraught after her arrest or when she called her family just 90 minutes before her death. She had bipolar disorder, but family members said her arrest “wouldn’t have been the trigger” leading her to take her own life, the attorney told the newspaper.
Months later, in September 2016, Wilson’s mother told reporters of how she didn’t learn of her daughter’s death until days later — after calling and searching in a panic.
“I wouldn’t have found out,” Lisa Hines, her mother, said. “They wasn’t going to call me.”
As authorities were first investigating Wilson’s death, just weeks later, LAPD Commission President Matt Johnson told the Times he thought it was “outrageous that it took so long for the family to be notified.”
In July 2017, Los Angeles prosecutors announced they would not pursue charges in Wilson’s death.
The decision came after months of reviewing jail surveillance footage and poring over medical records, police reports and interviews with witnesses, as the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said in a report about the investigation.