CHICAGO (CBS) — Two families involved in one case of mistaken identity met for the first time Wednesday. One family’s loved one was dying only to find out after the man died that he was really the other family’s relative.
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“I know that God is working in this and through you guys,” said Mioshi Brittman, the great niece of Elisha Brittman, who died with the wrong family at his side. “We really appreciate you as well, from the entire family.”
Brittman spoke with the family who cared for her great uncle.
Elisha Brittman was found on the South Side on April 29, naked, unresponsive and under a car with severe injuries. He was brought to Mercy Hospital, and Chicago police misidentified Brittman as Alfonso Bennett using mugshots.
“It was always doubt,” said Bennett’s sister Rosie Brooks. “Always doubt. I expressed that to the doctor.”
The Brittman and Bennett families have filed wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Chicago and Mercy Hospital. The Bennetts made life and death decisions for Brittman, taking him off life support and then later staying by his side in hospice until he died.
“I thank God that we was there to give an individual that came in as John Doe a family that he didn’t even know,” said Brooks
The entire time Brittman was missing. His family says they were searching for him. They say they tried filing a missing persons report with police but were rebuffed. They also called area hospitals, including Mercy, and never knew he was there the entire time but under the wrong name.
“I would like for the police department to investigate and to figure out and to give us answers of what really happened and be truthful to us,” said Mioshi Brittman.
Days before the man they were caring for was to be laid to rest, the Bennetts’ brother Alfonso showed up at a sister’s home to visit.
“I’m looking at them like, ‘Wow, I’m ready to like barbecue or something,’ and they’re looking at me like I was a ghost,” said Alfonso Bennett.
Both families say the entire situation could have been avoided if fingerprints were taken when Brittman had remained unidentified at Mercy.
“They didn’t run his fingerprints until he was at the county morgue. If you can’t do it on day one, why’d you do it on the 31st day?” said Brooks.
Since the CBS 2 investigation, Sen. Patricia Van Pelt plans to introduce legislation to make sure no family in Illinois has to go through what the Bennetts and Brittmans have endured.
“When you have someone who is unidentifiable, doesn’t have ID, is unconscious, fingerprinting seems to me to be the best step you can take at that time,” said Van Pelt.
“You can easily draft legislation to ensure that fingerprints and/or DNA are used without having that information used for purposes of prosecution,” said Cannon Lambert Sr., attorney for the Brittman and Bennett families.
Chicago police and Mercy Hospital have maintained that the Bennetts identified Brittman as their loved one, but the Bennetts say they continuously raised doubts.
Mercy said the hospital could not comment on the story due to pending litigation.
The city law department has no comment because it has not seen the lawsuit yet.