CHICAGO, IL — An investigation regarding the in-custody death of a mentally ill man has revealed that police tasered him a total of 16 times while shackled. Video shows that police used the taser as a compliance tool in a jail cell and were laughing during the incident. The man was also tased repeatedly as he was taken to court and then to the hospital, until he died.
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Philip Coleman, 38, was a University of Chicago graduate and masters graduate of UIC. He had “never been in trouble,” according to his father. Towards the end of his life he suffered a severe mental breakdown.
“I’ve never seen him out of sorts,” said the neighbor, Dana Robinson, to the Chicago Sun Times. Robinson said he talked periodically with Coleman and that he was never a troublemaker. “I’ve always seen him laughing, always seen him smiling. Everything was always good with him.”
On Wednesday, December 12, 2012, Philip Coleman went through a bizarre episode in which he became disgruntled, barged into his neighbor’s garage, hurled himself at a barbed wire fence, and accosted his mother.
Philip’s father, Percy Coleman, drove around the neighborhood to find his son following the episode. After finding him, Philip hugged and kissed him, spoke incoherently, then claimed to not know him.
“Who are you? You’re not my father,” Percy remembers Philip saying. Philip, in a delusional state, then struck his father, knocking off his glasses, and then fell to his knees. “Anyone that hits their mother is sick. Shoot me. Shoot me,” Philip pleaded.
When police arrived, Philip was outside and incoherent. “My son spread his arms and started making airplane sounds,” explained the elder Coleman. He says his son was talking gibberish, bleeding, and clearly needing hospitalization.
Percy says that officers aimed guns at his confused son, barking orders at him. “I got in front of my son and said ‘You are not going to shoot him,’” Percy remembered. “I told him, ‘How are you going to give him orders when he don’t understand?’”
“I told them [police] that my son was having an emotional breakdown, and could they please take him to the hospital,” recalled Percy, himself a retired police chief. “And that’s when one of the officers said, ‘We do not do hospitals, we do jail.’ Unbelievable.”
While Philip was being apprehended on the ground, a female police officer claimed that Philip spit on her. He was hauled off the the police station without further incident.
That evening, while sleeping in a jail cell, officers roused him and gave him his first round of tasings. According to CBS Chicago:
A police station video allegedly shows six officers entered Coleman’s cell as he lay sleeping and used a TASER on him three times after they told him to stand up.
Attorney Ed Fox filed a lawsuit for the Coleman family and is fighting to get the video released. He says after the TASER was used on Coleman the officers reacted.
“Some of them were laughing,” Fox says. “He was treated like an animal.”
Later Thursday morning, Coleman was tased again during his transportation to his court hearing. He was tased again at Roseland Hospital.
At first it police claimed that the taser was only used a few times. Police documented their use of force by saying the taser was used “to gain control of the subject” after Coleman “became combative.”
But records obtained by CBS Chicago — downloadable records from the taser devices — indicate that Coleman was shocked 16 times during his 22 hours in police custody. He was arrested at at approximately 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, and died at 5:37 p.m. on Thursday.
The death outraged many in the community.
“I can guarantee you, we will get to the bottom of this,” pledged Coleman’s father. “I know the game and I know that they’re doing,” Coleman said to WLAS. “I’m in law enforcement. I know what to do. You don’t take someone who is bleeding from the mouth and hands to a lockup. You take him to the hospital because you don’t want the responsibility.” He added, “All they had to do was follow their own damn law and take him to the hospital. They could keep him under arrest.”
Attorney Ed Fox got to view the jail video and is working to get it publicly released. “They shouldn’t be tasing somebody that’s in handcuffs, and ankle cuffs, and mentally ill,” he remarked.
“My brother was totally tortured,” said Jacquie Coleman, Philip’s sister. She told the Sun Times that her brother was “not treated justly, he was treated like an insect.”
“Thirty-eight years old, never been in trouble. No problem until that day,” Percy lamented. “Because he spit on police they gave him a death sentence.”
The Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago used federal grant money in 2010 to expand its arsenal of Tasers to more than 600. The following year, citizens were being shocked at a 329 percent higher rate.
Demand the release of all relevant videos and documents. Demand the names of the officers who used the tasers all 16 times. Call for justice.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy
Phone Hotline: (773) 533-6272