Frustrated with the pace of the local investigation into their son’s death, the parents of a Destin man killed after he was Tased repeatedly last November by Coweta County deputies have petitioned the U.S. Department of Justice to launch its own inquiry.
“We’ve lost faith in the the district attorney taking this case to a grand jury,” said Chris Stewart, who represents the parents of Chase Sherman, 32 when he died. Kevin and Mary Ann Sherman watched from the median of I-85 as deputies deployed 15 Taser strikes that, according to GBI Chief Medical Examiner Jonathan Eisenstat, caused their son’s heart rate and blood pressure to rise substantially. His oxygen intake was also inhibited because he was subdued, with the assistance of an EMT, lying face down.
Stewart, noting that the confrontation with Sherman was captured on the deputies’ body cameras, said Coweta District Attorney Pete Skandalakis has had nearly 10 months — more than enough time, he said — to complete his investigation.
Skandalakis did not respond to multiple calls seeking comment Wednesday.
“It’s either minorities or the mentally ill who are the victims of police brutality,” Stewart said Wednesday. In an unusual twist, Stewart, who is African-American, said the fact Sherman was white and affluent may work against him.
“He doesn’t have anyone like Black Lives Matter raising hell on his behalf,” he said. “There’s no advocacy group applying pressure to the powers that be.”
Sherman had no history of mental illness. The family had just returned from his brother’s wedding in the Dominican Republic where, according to Mary Ann Sherman, her eldest son had exhibited an uncharacteristic paranoia. He eventually confided to his parents that he had taken Spice a few days before they left Florida.
A toxicology report showed no drugs in Chase’s body. Though he confessed to his parents that he had used the designer drug a few years before, they insist he was no addict. A licensed boat captain, Sherman was subject to random drug tests.
Stewart said Coweta investigators “were more interested in Chase’s history and what may have happened at the wedding” than in the alleged misconduct by deputies Samuel Smith and Joshua Sepanski.
After an initial struggle in which Sepanski said Sherman grabbed his Taser, the deputies — assisted by EMT Daniel Elliot — were able to subdue him. But body camera footage shows the deputies, who remain on the job, shocking Sherman even after he declared “I’m dead!” and “I quit!”
Coweta Sheriff Mike Yeager defended the aggressive response by his deputies, saying they were reacting to Mary Ann Sherman’s 911 call in which she told the operator her son “(is) going to kill us all if we don’t get help.”
Chase’s behavior grew increasingly paranoid after the family arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, say his parents. They decided to rent a car to drive back to Destin instead of catching their connecting flight.
But Chase’s irrationality only escalated. He tried to jump out of the vehicle and at one point bit his fiancee, Patti Galloway, who had traveled with the family.
“He’s not the victim. He’s the perpetrator,” Yeager told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in May.
A spokesman for John Horn, U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia, declined to comment on the case.