Cleveland woman's in-custody death ruled homicide

AP News
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Posted: Jan 02, 2015 12:37 PM

A woman died in Cleveland police custody nearly two months ago because she was physically restrained in a prone position, and her heart condition and bipolar disorder were also factors, a coroner said Friday.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office ruled that Tanisha Anderson's death was a homicide.

Anderson died Nov. 12 at hospital after being handcuffed, taken into police custody and then losing consciousness while having a mental-health episode. Relatives said the 37-year-old was schizophrenic, and they claimed an officer used excessive force.

In a statement, Cleveland police said its own use of force investigation team is looking into the death. The two officers involved are on restricted duty, the department said.

Anderson's cause of death was ruled "sudden death associated with physical restraint in a prone position," the medical examiner's office said, while also citing coronary artery disease and her bipolar disorder.

Her family said at a news conference nearly two weeks ago that they wanted more answers about what happened and that Cleveland officers need better training on dealing with mentally ill people.

In December, the police force was heavily criticized in a U.S. Justice Department report that found excessive use of force and civil rights violations.

Federal investigators spent 18 months looking into use of force policies in Cleveland after a series of well-publicized incidents, including the killing of two unarmed civilians in a hail of police gunfire after a high-speed chase.

The Justice Department's finding will force the city to devise a plan to reform the police department. That plan must be approved by a federal judge and will be overseen by an independent monitor.