CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police misidentified a man languishing in a hospital bed, leaving the wrong family to stay by his side while he died. Now because of CBS 2 reports, a state lawmaker says she wants to take steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again in Illinois.
“It shouldn’t have never happened like that,” said Mioshi Brittman,” great niece of Elisha Brittman, the man who died with the wrong family at his side.
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Elisha Brittman was found naked and unresponsive with severe injuries under a vehicle on Chicago’s South Side on April 29. He was brought to Mercy Hospital and listed as a John Doe. His family had been searching for him the entire time.
“We called the morgues. We called the hospital — Mercy,” said Mioshi. “We called them! We called County! We called everywhere!”
The family of Alfonso Bennett was contacted. They stayed by Elisha Brittman’s side until he died.
“To just take a mugshot and use that to identify a person who clearly has had injuries to his face is shocking,” said State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt.
Van Pelt is the chairwoman of the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee.
“When I saw the latest report, it broke my heart listening to the young lady talk about how she searched diligently for her uncle,” she said. “I think legislation is important. It is something we should definitely look into creating right now, drafting up some legislation, so that no family will ever have to suffer through this again in Illinois. When you have someone that is unidentifiable, doesn’t have ID, is unconscious, fingerprinting seems to me to be the best step you can take at that time.”
“Fingerprints can be used in those circumstances,” said a spokesperson for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. “The problem comes in if the unidentified person has never been fingerprinted for any reason.”
“Quite naturally, DNA is the next step,” said Van Pelt.
Brittman’s great niece said if legislation making fingerprints mandatory in John Doe cases had been in place, the misidentification of her great uncle by Chicago police would not have happened.
“We wouldn’t even be sitting here,” she said. “We would have been by his side, there talking, providing and taking care of him. This wouldn’t even have been a mishap.”
Van Pelt plans to introduce the legislation during the next session. Chicago police and Mercy Hospital said the Bennett family identified the man as their relative. The Bennetts said they raised doubts but cared for the man because police had identified him as their loved one.
After he was misidentified Alfonso Bennett said his disability and social security payments stopped. The day after CBS 2’s report aired, Bennett said his benefits were restored.