(CBS) — A call to Chicago police for help with a mentally ill man led to an arrest, a TASER being repeatedly deployed and an outraged family.
CBS 2’s Dave Savini has been looking into this case and the use of stun guns. He spoke with the local family and a human rights group, and both say stun guns are being abused by police even when suspects are in custody.
Philip Coleman, a University of Chicago graduate, suddenly suffered a mental breakdown, his father, Percy Coleman, says.
The junior Coleman hit his mother and Chicago police were called. His father says officers surrounded his son outside. Percy Coleman, a retired suburban police chief, said his son was bleeding and spread his arms and “started making airplane sounds.”
“He needed to go to a hospital,” he says.
Instead, he was taken to a Chicago police station and a TASER was repeatedly used on him in a cell.
Jacquie Coleman is Phillip Coleman’s sister.
“My brother was totally tortured,” she says.
Police reports say Coleman became aggressive. However, 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.”
Coleman was then taken to Roseland Hospital. Police claim he was aggressive there, too, and they used the TASER on him again. The number of times is in question.
Philip Coleman later died, and his family wants the death investigated.
The 2 Investigators obtained data showing the TASER was used on Coleman a total of seven times. Other records downloaded from the TASER guns show it was used on him 16 times.
Rachel Ward of Amnesty International says lack of strong regulations and standards means an over-use of stun guns in Chicago and around the country. She says there have been 540 stun gun-related deaths since 2001.
“There is an urgent need to ensure that the use of these devices is suspended,” Ward says.
The 2 Investigators found in 2012 and 2013, 1,078 TASER cases were reviewed by Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority. The 11th District had the most TASER case reviews, even though it ranked eighth for crime, according to police records. At least 75 percent of all reviews involved Tasers being used on African-Americans. Nearly 90 percent were men.
“It just sickens me that these people who wear these badges are still on the street,” Jacquie Coleman says.
CBS 2 found 900 cases since 2011 where Chicago police used a TASER on people more than once.
Chicago Police Department officials would not comment on the Coleman lawsuit. But CBS 2 was told the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office declined to charge any officers. CBS 2 also was told TASER use last year decreased 48 percent from the year before, due, in part, to additional training and experience.
Coleman’s case is an open investigation with the Independent Police Review Authority.