A civilian detention aide for the Chicago police who dragged Philip Coleman down a hallway while handcuffed after he was Tasered used excessive force, a federal judge said Monday.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly also states that now-retired Sgt. Tommy Walker, who was the supervisor of the detention aide, Keith Kirkland, failed to step in to stop the mistreatment of Coleman. Video of the 2012 incident was released by the city last Monday.
"Kirkland chose to use brute force when it was no longer necessary," Kennelly's opinion reads. "Sgt. Walker conceded during his deposition that the officers could have stood Mr. Coleman up and told him to walk ... It is undisputed that Sgt. Walker could have ordered Kirkland not to drag, or to stop dragging, Mr. Coleman and that he chose not to do so."
The ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by the family of Coleman, who was detained by police in December 2012 for assaulting his mother during an apparent mental health crisis. Coleman was later brought by police to Roseland Community Hospital, where he died after having an adverse reaction to an antipsychotic drug. Coleman's autopsy revealed that the 38-year-old also had bruises and other physical injuries.
Monetary damages will now be decided by a jury.
An attorney for the Coleman family, Ed Fox, said the judge's decision "is important because the question of excessive force in connection with dragging Philip Coleman is no longer for a jury's determination as this piece of the case has been now determined."
"It is also a judicial recognition, before trial, that excessive force was indisputably used. It is also important because the supervisor on the scene ... is also liable since he just stood by and let it happen, if not facilitated it happening," he told the Chicago Tribune.
"By inference, at trial, we will also contend that another supervisor on the scene, as well as the remaining officers who were in the cell where Philip was tased and choked, should also be liable for dragging Philip," Fox added.