When Chicago police Sgt. Sean Tully arrived to the call of domestic battery in 2012, he encountered a man named Philip Coleman in the middle of an apparent mental health crisis.
Coleman had just attacked his mother, and according to a neighbor, when police first arrived he was babbling incoherently and running around with his arms outstretched “like an airplane.”
The neighbor, and Coleman’s father, were able to calm him down and the police handcuffed Coleman. While he was down on the ground handcuffed, Coleman continued to babble incoherently and then spat in the direction of the officers.
Coleman’s father, according to a report by the Independent Police Review Authority, pleaded with Tully to take his son to the hospital because he needed mental health treatment.
To that Tully reportedly responded, “We don’t do hospitals. We do jail,” according to two witnesses.
The next day, while Coleman was in the 5th District lockup, he was tased and then taken to the ground by a group of six officers. Coleman was then dragged along the lockup hallway by his handcuffs. He was taken to the hospital and given a sedative.
According to the Cook County medical examiner, Coleman had a negative reaction to the drug and died in police custody.
Now, the Chicago Police Board is suspending Tully for 120 days for refusing to provide necessary medical treatment to Coleman during the initial arrest. Tully was not involved in the later altercation with Coleman in the lockup. The board announced its decision at a meeting Thursday.
The suspension follows the recommendation of the Independent Police Review Authority which preceded the Civilian Office of Police Accountability as the Chicago agency that investigates the most serious allegations of police misconduct. The agency found multiple officers at fault in Coleman’s death.
Tully’s is the first of them to go before the police board.
In recommending Tully’s suspension, IPRA investigators concluded that his refusal to take Coleman to the hospital was “retaliatory” for Coleman spitting on the officers.
“No one likes being spat upon. It is not only an insulting gesture, it is an act that places an officer at risk of harm through the spread of communicable diseases, and is, in fact, a criminal offense,” the recommendation reads. “But displeasure does not excuse an officer’s duty to provide police service in a manner that is consistent with the Department values.”
By law, Tully has a little more than a month to challenge the police board’s decision in Cook County court.