A videotape of Chicago police not getting immediate medical help for a suspect who collapsed after swallowing drugs during an arrest last summer likely will lead to a $1.3 million wrongful death settlement against the city.
The case involves John Coleman Jr., 39, who was spotted in July 2010 by officers taking part in an apparent drug sale on the 100 block of West Division Street, a city attorney said Wednesday. Coleman ran, and after being caught, struggled with officers. One used a Taser to subdue him.
Officers put Coleman into a police vehicle for a trip to the 18th District police station at Larrabee and Division streets.
“Officers stop the SUV, exit the SUV, open the door and then see that he’s in distress, but close the door and proceed on to the station house,” Leslie Darling, a top City Hall attorney, told aldermen at a committee hearing. “At the station house, officers removed him from the vehicle. He was unresponsive, and only at that time did they call for medical assistance.”
Before the trip to the station, officers four times told Coleman to open his mouth, and later it was discovered he had swallowed a bag containing packets containing heroin, Darling said. Coleman died, and an autopsy later determined that he died from a heroin and cocaine overdose, she said.
The transport was captured on video.
“The evidence was the videotape, which clearly showed (Coleman) in distress, and so the decision was made to move forward with settlement,” Darling said. “Jury verdicts of up to $5 million have been awarded in comparable cases involving a denial of medical care,” Darling added. “So our interest was to minimize the financial — the potential — and settle this case.”
Daniel O’Brien, an attorney representing Coleman’s mother, Connie, said police procedure required officers to call for medical help after Coleman was Tasered, as well as after he collapsed in the SUV. “They did not take him to an emergency room as they were required to,” O’Brien said.
The City Council Finance Committee endorsed the settlement with minimal dissent Wednesday. The full council is scheduled to vote on it Thursday.
Alexis Zayas and Ronnie Black, two of five officers named in the suit, were relieved of their police powers pending an investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority that will make a discipline recommendation to the police superintendent, Darling said.
The Finance Committee also endorsed paying $300,000 to settle a civil lawsuit filed by a young man who lost his leg as the result of a February 2008 crash caused by a pothole near Kedzie Avenue and West Street.