We have become inundated with the graphic cell phone and body cam videos permeating the Internet. Some of these videos are harder to watch than others. The video depicting the death of Chase Sherman is one of the more disturbing videos you may ever see. After experiencing some sort of hallucination and moment of panic, he attempted to flee from the vehicle. His wife called police for help, but shortly after their arrival, Chase would be dead.
November 20, 2015 would be a day that Chase’s family will never forget. He was heading home from his brother’s wedding with his fiancé and his parents. As they drove through Georgia toward the Florida line, Chase had some sort of adverse reaction to what could have possibly been synthetic marijuana. According to reports, he smoked it several days prior to this incident. Unable to calm him, Chase’s wife called the police, believing they could help. As we have seen time and time again, once the police arrived, they escalated the situation, resulting in Chase’s death.
Instead of attempting to de-escalate the situation, involving what should have been evident, an emotionally troubled individual, the police attempted to calm Chase down with multiple Taser deployments. The video is more telling than most realize, as it clearly demonstrates the level of brainwashing that officers undergo, as the deputy shouts his reasoning.
“Do you understand this is for our protection?” the deputy yells at Chase’s mother, who is terrified in the front seat. He genuinely believes this falsehood. The deputy is forgetting that force in any situation can only be used for two reasons: defense and control. In no way, is he defending anyone in this depiction. His goal here is to gain control of Chase, in order to further evaluate him. At no time does any deputy in the video attempt to physically gain control of their subject, thus violating the primary tenant of authorized force. “There was no way for him to resist,” according to the Sherman family lawyer. “For four minutes and 10 seconds after he said ‘I quit,’ they still tased him and kept him on the ground. That’s torture, and they killed him.”
This incident is not unlike the case of two Atlanta officers who were charged last year in the Taser death of Gregory Towns Junior. The indictment of Sgt. Marcus Eberhart and Cpl. Howard J. Weems Jr. stated that the officers “did directly and materially contribute to the death of Mr Towns through their uses of Tasers. [When] used against a person who is handcuffed behind his back and exhibiting symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath.” Tasers pose a great risk of death and serious bodily harm. Towns had heart disease, which was exacerbated by the Taser, resulting in his death. Towns refused to move after being handcuffed because he was exhausted after a foot chase. The officers tasered him in an attempt to gain compliance, rather than looking into his medical complaints and treating him like a human being.
Samuel Smith and Joshua Sepanski were identified as the deputies responsible for Chase’s death. You can hear Chase’s last words, as the officers continue to Taser him. “OK, I’m dead. I quit! I quit!” he said as one of the deputies crushes him with him own body weight, against the floor of the back seat. The deputies continued to taser Chase for over four minutes, even after he had complied and lay still in the backseat. Once the realization that Chase had died had sunk in, one of the deputies on scene can be heard saying “we’re f@*ked.” At least they knew it. Despite the district attorney dragging his feet and failing to deliver this to a grand jury in a timely manner, the decision now lies with him to prosecute or not. With precedent having been set in the case of Gregory Towns, and the circumstances being overwhelmingly more brutal than the Towns case, it will be difficult for the Cowetta County DA, Peter Skandalakis, to worm his way out of it.
“I really haven’t formed a final opinion about it,” Skandalakis remarked. He advised that the case is still under investigation. The initial investigation was concluded by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, however, their conclusions have not been disclosed. Skandalakis stated that he wanted to release the video before the conclusion of the case, saying the public have an interest in it. As of yet, neither deputy involved has been removed from their job.