IPRA Reopens Investigation Into Coleman Case Day After Taser Video Released

Surveillance footage released Monday shows officers using a Taser on Coleman and dragging his body down a hallway while Coleman is handcuffed

Just one day after police released video showing officers using a Taser on a man who later died in police custody, the Independent Police Review Authority has reopened its investigation into his death.

Acting Chief Administrator for the Independent Police Review Authority, Sharon Fairley, said in a statement Tuesday she directed her team to reopen in the investigation surrounding the treatment of Phillip Coleman, a Chicago man who died in police custody in 2012. She said the investigation will determine "if the officers' actions are within department guidelines and, if so, whether policy changes are needed to avoid another incident like this in the future."

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 released Monday 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.

Coleman's family said they had no idea video showing officers using a Taser on the 38-year-old before his death would be released Monday.

"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."

Police initially said the incident remained under investigation Monday.

"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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