INDIANAPOLIS -- The family of a man who died in custody after being shot with a stun gun filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Indianapolis and six police officers.
The estate of Herman Whitfield III is seeking compensatory and punitive damages following the 39-year-old pianist’s death April 25 inside his parent’s home in Indianapolis.
The man's mother, Gladys Whitfield, said they were trying to get help for him when they called police.
“We thought we were availing ourselves of services that they provide and they killed our son,” Gladys Whitfield said. “I’m just very disappointed and sad about what happened. I couldn’t be more sad.”
The lawsuit claims the officers used a stun gun on Whitfield and then “crushed the breath out of an unarmed, non-violent Mr. Whitfield.”
The lawsuit also claims the officers ignored Whitfield’s cries of “I can’t breathe.”
Police Chief Randal Taylor and city’s Office of Corporation Counsel declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Responding officers were told Whitfield was experiencing a mental health issue and needed an ambulance, police said.
Officers had tried negotiating and using de-escalation tactics for more than 10 minutes when Whitfield moved quickly toward an officer, police said.
“The officer activated the Taser twice and the man continued to resist,” police said in a news release at the time.
Officers handcuffed the man, but medics received no response from him, and they began CPR, police said. Whitfield was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
Officers described the man as about 6-foot-2 (1.9 meters) and around 280 pounds (127 kilograms) pounds.