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Video reveals new police blunder in US

Georgia police tasing handcuffed man to death

Published: Updated:

Two deputies yell "Stop fighting!" and "He's got my Taser!" as they repeatedly stun a handcuffed man in the back of a vehicle, commanding him to relax even as he insists "I'm dead," shortly before he stops breathing, body-camera video shows.

The video shows the Nov. 20 incident in the back of an SUV in Coweta County, outside Atlanta. Chase Sherman, 32, of Destin, Fla., was pronounced dead at a hospital later that day.

The deputies responded after Sherman's mother called 911. She told the dispatcher she was in a car with her husband, her son and the son's girlfriend on southbound Interstate 85. She said her son was "freaking out" and had taken the synthetic drug spice.

The deputies approach the vehicle and start struggling with Sherman, with someone yelling "Tase him!" and "Hit him!" as he cries out and his mother begs them to stop, as shown in the video. It was released Friday by Coweta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Peter Skandalakis.

"What's your problem, buddy?" one deputy says. "That's a good way to get shot right there. I tell you right now, you grab my Taser again, it's gonna be on."

The deputies insist that his mother and girlfriend in the front seat get away from the area. "You're not going to shoot him, you hear me?" Sherman's mother says.

A deputy says Sherman broke his radio as he tries to call for help. The deputies tell the family they're subduing Sherman for their own protection. Once they have a working radio, the deputies request 911 help and tell Sherman to "just relax, stop resisting." They hit him with the stun gun again. He cries out, eventually saying, "I'm dead."

At one point, Sherman is on the floor of the SUV. An emergency medical technician leans on him. "I've got him pinned. He can't come up unless he comes up with me on him," the EMT says. A deputy continues to use his stun gun.

The deputies realize Sherman has stopped breathing and move him out of the vehicle. The family wails off camera. A deputy says, "Get the family back." "He ain't breathing," someone says.

Emergency personnel do chest compressions on the roadside as a deputy removes Sherman's handcuffs.

One deputy later says, "Look at my cuffs," showing his mangled handcuffs from the incident. He tells his colleagues he knows he'll be fired, but one insists he won't.

Dist. Atty. Skandalakis said in a statement Friday that his office has not finished reviewing the case and the investigation is ongoing.

Both deputies are still employed with the department, according to Col. James Yarbrough with Coweta County Sheriff's Office. They're identified in incident reports as J.D. Sepanski and S. Smith.

Coweta County Sheriff's Office records from Sherman's death show that one deputy's stun gun was used nine times in a 2½-minute span for a total of 47 seconds, including one use that lasted 17 seconds. The other deputy's stun gun was used six times in just over four minutes for a total of 29 seconds.

The family's attorney, Chris Stewart, said at a news conference Friday that they'd been in the Dominican Republic for his brother's wedding and decided to rent a car and drive home after Sherman became agitated during a layover in Atlanta, Stewart said. As they drove, Sherman was hallucinating and trying to exit the vehicle, Stewart said.

Sherman's father, Kevin Sherman, said was shocked when he saw the video for the first time Friday, adding that his son looked "out of it." "He says 'I quit,' and these dirty dogs didn't know when to quit," Kevin Sherman said.

Stewart acknowledged that the video shows Chase Sherman resisting officers for about a minute and 46 seconds and grabbing the end of the stun gun. But he said that once Sherman was handcuffed and stopped struggling, the officers should have waited for medical personnel rather than continuing to use stun guns and the weight of a person to subdue him.

Sherman's death certificate lists his death as a homicide and the cause as "sudden death during an altercation with law enforcement with several trigger pulls of an electronic control device, prone positioning on the floor of a motor vehicle and compression of the torso by the body weight of another individual."

If the district attorney declines to bring the case before a grand jury, his family wants theU.S. Department of Justice to look into the incident, Stewart said. The family also plans to file a lawsuit, he said.

"They need to pay [for] what they did to him. He didn't deserve it," Sherman's mother, Mary Ann Sherman, said. "They tortured him to death."