Family Demands Investigation Into Man's Death After Taser Shocks

Police say victim was combative, family says he was undergoing mental breakdown

By Anthony Ponce
|  Tuesday, Dec 18, 2012  |  Updated 4:55 PM CDT
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The Rev. Jesse Jackson and a Chicago family are calling for an independent investigation after a Chicago man died in police custody last week.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and a Chicago family are calling for an independent investigation after a Chicago man died in police custody last week.

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson and a Chicago family are calling for an independent investigation after a man died in police custody last week.

The group wants to know whether Chicago Police officers used excessive force in their handling of 38-year old Phillip Coleman.

There are two very different versions of what happened to Coleman. Police say officers were forced to use a Taser in response to a combative, aggressive suspect.

Coleman's family says the victim was suffering from an extreme, severe mental breakdown at the time of the incident, and needed to be hospitalized, not taken to jail.

Coleman was pronounced dead Thursday evening while in police custody after a series of violent episodes over the course of the prior day.

"It's unbelievable. It's just unbelievable," the victim's father, Percy Coleman, said. "I can guarantee you we're going to get to the bottom of this."

Coleman was first arrested Wednesday afternoon at his home in the West Pullman neighborhood for allegedly beating his 69-year old mother. As he was taken into custody, police say he became combative and even spat blood at officers. But family members deny he was actually coughing up blood due to injuries sustained during the fight.

The day after his arrest, police say Coleman again became combative as they tried to transfer him to court from Area South Police Headquarters, prompting officers to use a Taser on him.

Police then transferred Coleman to the hospital where they say he once again became violent with both officers and hospital staff. That led to another shock with the Taser. Coleman died a short time later.

"I'm not going to stop until there's justice for Phillip," said Percy Coleman, who is the co-chairman of the Chicago Republican Party and a former Ford Heights police chief.

He said his son received his graduate degree in Public Health from UIC a year ago.

The Coleman family are meeting with attorneys Tuesday and have already reached out to the Mayor's Office, Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy, and Anita Alvarez. They're seeking the same type of special investigation and special prosecutor that eventually led to charges against former Mayor Daley's nephew, Richard "RJ" Vanecko, who's charged with involuntary manslaughter for the 2004 death of David Koschman.

Coleman's funeral is scheduled for Friday at 1 pm.

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