Law­suit: Man on life sup­port misiden­ti­fied, wrong fam­ily no­ti­fied

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAN­D -

A law­suit claims Chicago po­lice misiden­ti­fied a badly beaten man, lead­ing to the wrong fam­ily de­cid­ing to take him off life sup­port ear­lier this year.

The law­suit was filed in Cook County last week by both the fam­ily of Elisha Brittman and the fam­ily that was wrongly told he was their rel­a­tive. It contends that po­lice failed to use fin­ger­prints to positively iden­tify Brittman, in­stead re­ly­ing only on pho­tos to misiden­tify him as Alfonso Bennett.

Brittman, 69, was found naked and beaten un­der­neath a car near 47th Street and Wabash Av­enue in Bronzevill­e on April 29, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit. He was taken to Mercy Hospi­tal and listed as John Doe for two weeks un­til po­lice used a mugshot to iden­tify him, even though his face was badly dis­fig­ured by the beating, the law­suit states.

Hospi­tal staff then reached out to Bennett’s fam­ily, who said they told doc­tors and nurses that they did not be­lieve the man in a coma in in­ten­sive care was their rel­a­tive.

“I said, ‘How did you all ver­ify that this is Alfonso Bennett?’” Rosie Brooks, Bennett’s sis­ter, said at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day. “They said, ‘Through the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment.’”

Brooks said her fam­ily was re­peat­edly told by hospi­tal staff that they didn’t rec­og­nize Bennett be­cause they were in de­nial. Even­tu­ally, though, the fam­ily agreed to take him off life sup­port on the ad­vice of doc­tors and place him in hospice care.

Brooks said the fam­ily was with him when he died three days later. Af­ter they made funeral ar­range­ments, Brooks said Alfonso Bennett walked through his sis­ter’s front door. In the mean­time, the man who died was iden­ti­fied at the morgue through fin­ger­prints as Brittman.

Brooks said both fam­i­lies are an­gry that po­lice did not do more.

“They find a guy naked, beat up, un­der a car, no ID and just take him to Mercy,” Brooks said. “My thing is if it had been a different ZIP code, would it have made a dif­fer­ence? Be­cause you have a John Doe, no ID, naked and un­der a car, wouldn’t you want to know how he got un­der the car? Who put him un­der there? What hap­pened?

“To me that means black lives don’t mat­ter,” she con­tin­ued. “You car­ried him to Mercy, didn’t even know who he was and didn’t even take the time to find out. You should have fin­ger­printed him then.”

Chicago po­lice said they don’t fin­ger­print peo­ple un­less they’ve been ar­rested be­cause it is a pri­vacy is­sue. In this case, they pro­vided an ar­ray of mugshots to the hospi­tal and, with hospi­tal em­ploy­ees, de­cided the man in the hospi­tal bed looked like Bennett.

The Po­lice Depart­ment said it has now opened a death in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“To say that we cur­rently have ques­tions is an un­der­state­ment,” the depart­ment said in a state­ment. “We have de­tec­tives look­ing into ev­ery as­pect of this in­ci­dent — from the in­ci­dent re­sponse to the cir­cum­stances lead­ing to the hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and the no­ti­fi­ca­tion of fam­ily mem­bers.”

WGN-TV con­trib­uted to this re­port.


Elisha Brittman

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