LOS ANGELES (CBS)  — An investigation has been launched to determine how a 35-year-old mother of two died while in police custody.

Alesia Thomas was found unresponsive in the back of a patrol car. The LAPD officers involved in her arrest and apprehension have been removed from field duty by Chief Charlie Beck.

“I take all in-custody death investigations very seriously and directed the officers involved be removed from field duties until further details are known, including what part intoxicants and physical conditions contributed,” Beck said. “I’m confident we will get to the truth, no matter where that leads us.”

Two children, a 3-year-old and a 12-year-old, were abandoned at the LAPD’s Southeast Station on July 22, police said. An officer’s investigation led to their mother, Thomas.

After interviewing Thomas and completing a preliminary investigation, officers arrested her for suspicion of child endangerment.

Police said Thomas began actively resisting arrest. One officer performed a leg sweep and took her to the ground, while two other officers handcuffed Thomas behind her back, police said.

Thomas continued to resist and was placed in the rear of the police vehicle. Officers then reportedly placed a hobble restraint on her ankles and placed her in a seated position in the back seat, police said.

Within minutes after being placed in the vehicle, officers noticed Thomas did not appear to be breathing and immediately called for Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics. She was taken to a hospital and died a short time later.

Rob Schmitt, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, said at least five officers were being investigated.

He says an LA Times report also says there is video evidence that will show the woman was kicked and suffocated.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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