‘Roller Coaster Ride From Hell’: Family Wasn’t Told Chicago Police Taser Video Would Be Released

The family had seen parts of the video, but not the complete footage, according to a family spokesman

The family of Philip Coleman, a Chicago man who died in police custody in 2012, had no idea video showing officers using a Taser on the 38-year-old before his death would be released Monday, a family spokesman told NBC Chicago.

"They had no idea that this video would come out and it’s heart-wrenching," said Bishop Tavis Grant, a spokesman for the Coleman family. "This has been a roller coaster ride from hell for them."

Grant said the family had seen parts of the footage, but not the complete video. Percy Coleman, Philip's father, said the family did not see the video airing on TV, but they started getting calls from family and friends who had seen around 10:15 p.m. Monday.

"The last time they saw him alive is on that video," Grant said. "No call, no prompting, no reaching out to their attorney. It is egregious and disingenuous. For the mayor to say it's wrong, this young man was murdered. This was a crime." 

Philip Coleman was arrested at his home in the West Pullman neighborhood on Dec. 12, 2012, for allegedly beating his 69-year old mother, according to police. Surveillance footage shows officers using a Taser on Coleman and dragging his body down a hallway while Coleman is handcuffed.

"I do not see how the manner in which Mr. Coleman was physically treated could possibly be acceptable," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement after releasing reports and video connected to the incident. "While the Medical Examiner ruled that Mr. Coleman died accidentally as a result of treatment he received in the hospital, it does not excuse the way he was treated when he was in custody."

Police said Coleman became combative after being taken into custody and even spat blood at officers. Family members deny that he was spitting at officers, saying he was actually coughing up blood because of injuries suffered during the fight.

"I had to stand in front of my son with my hands up to keep them from shooting him," Percy Coleman said. "I told the female officer, how could you shoot him if he is out of his mind?" 

Coleman died from a fatal reaction to an antipsychotic drug, but an autopsy showed he had more than 50 bruises and abrasions to his body. Coleman's family said he was suffering from a severe mental breakdown at the time of the incident and needed to be hospitalized, not taken to jail.

"The degree of abuse that he endured in that police station, having a mental breakdown, is unacceptable and it goes beyond being wrong, it’s criminal," Grant said.

Percy Coleman, a former police chief in suburban Ford Heights and Robbins who now works as a parole commander for the state of Illinois, accused the police of mishandling the situation from the beginning.

"Somebody in this city needs to be responsible for killing my son. They broke every rule in the book," Coleman said. "If you are bleeding and you are hurt when they're gonig to arrest you for something, they have to take you to the hospital. ... They didn't do that." 

Police said the incident is under investigation.

"This matter is under investigation, as it should be," said Interim Police Supt. John Escalante. "Independent of the facts that led to his arrest or the actions at the hospital, we are held to a higher standard and we must strive to live up to it every day. While the independent investigation is ongoing we will be doing our own review of our policies and practices surrounding the response to mental health crises."

The video was released the same day the Department of Justice announced it will investigate the Chicago Police Department, spurred by the events surrounding the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014, but not limited to that alone.

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