The family of a Florida man who died after Coweta County deputies repeatedly shocked him with a Taser filed a civil suit Wednesday against the deputies and the emergency medical technician they believe caused his death.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, more than two months after District Attorney Pete Skandalakis announced the case would not be presented to a grand jury, meaning no one would be held responsible for the death of 32-year-old Chase Sherman.
Sherman’s family and their attorney, L. Chris Stewart, announced the lawsuit Wednesday during a press conference in Atlanta.
“Chase Sherman is dead not simply because the Defendants used excessive force against him,” Stewart said in the lawsuit. “Chase Sherman is dead because the Defendants did not follow the well-known guidelines and warnings within the law enforcement community which are taught in order to avoid in custody death.”
Sherman was acting irrationally and accusing his parents and girlfriend of trying to kidnap him as they traveled from Atlanta to their Florida home on Nov. 20, 2015.
He tried to get out of the car and became violent. His family feared he was on drugs.
His mother, Mary Ann Sherman, called 911 and begged deputies to help the family without hurting her son.
“He’s hallucinating; we need help,” she pleaded with the operator. “He’s going to kill us all if we don’t get help.”
The lawsuit acknowledges Sherman did not follow commands from the deputies not to move.
Body camera video showed Coweta sheriff’s deputies Joshua Sepanski and Samuel Smith shock Sherman with a Taser about 15 times while struggling to get him in the back of an SUV along I-85. EMT Daniel Elliot arrived at the scene and held Chase down with his weight.
An autopsy determined the deadly combination of repeated Taser shocks and the EMT’s body weight caused Sherman’s heart rate to increase and restricted his ability to breathe.
Despite the autopsy’s findings, Skandalakis said in October that the deputies would not face criminal charges.
“The death of Chase Sherman, while tragic in nature, is not a criminal matter and, therefore, will not be prosecuted further under state law,” he said in an emailed statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Kevin Sherman said he wishes his wife had never called 911 because deputies “had no mindset to help” their son or “to see what his issues were.”
“We think about it, and we called them for help,” Kevin Sherman said. “And they killed my boy.”
Sherman’s parents are seeking unspecified damages.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.