BOSTON (CN) – A year and half after she watched in horror as police gunned down her unarmed son outside their apartment, a Boston woman brought federal excessive-force claims Wednesday against the city.
Represented by the firm Fick & Marx, plaintiff Hope Coleman says she had called 911 in the early hours of the morning on Oct. 30, 2016, at the suggestion of the therapist who had been treating her 31-year-old son Terrence for schizophrenia.
Terrence had begun suffering an episode the day before, and Coleman says she could not get her son to come inside from the front stoop of their building.
When she called 911 to request an ambulance that would bring Terrence to the Tufts Medical Center, according to the complaint, Coleman emphasized that her son needed medical attention only, and that police assistance was not required.
Citing department policy, however, the city sent police along with EMTs anyway.
Coleman notes that Terrence had come inside the apartment by this time, close to 1 a.m., but that he became agitated when he saw the flashing blue lights outside the building.
Two officers had been waiting outside, according to the complaint, but burst through the front door when they heard Terrence raising his voice.
Coleman says the officers pushed her to the floor as the tackled Terrence on the apartment foyer, and that one of the men then shot her son multiple times.
“There was no reason for the Boston police to kill my son,” Coleman said in a statement. “They should not have even been there in the first place. As a mother, you would never expect that a call for medical help would end up with police shooting and killing your only son. I want justice for my son, Terrence. The national crisis of police killing black men has to stop.”
Coleman’s complaint also disputes a report by Police Commissioner William Evans to the media after the shooting that Terrence had attacked the EMTs with a “large knife.”
Though the EMTs and the officers have all described a knife threat from Terrence, Coleman notes that there are crucial inconsistencies in their stories.
She also emphasizes that the kitchen knife police seized during a subsequent search of the apartment was taken out of the apartment, despite the statements that the threat occurred in the outside foyer.
“Terrence’s tragic death was a result of a BPD officer’s use of excessive, unreasonable, and deadly force,” the complaint states.
The complaint, which lists the city of Boston, its police department, Emergency Medical Services and a series of their employees as defendants, cites poor training for the tragedy.
“In Boston, police officers and emergency medical technicians receive little or no training to properly assist individuals with mental health disabilities, and the inadequate training that they do receive endorses and reinforces baseless, discriminatory stereotypes that persons with mental illness are violent and dangerous,” Fick & Marx attorney Rebecca Chapman said in a statement. “Today’s lawsuit outlines how the City’s practice of failing to properly train its personnel set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to Terrence’s tragic and unnecessary death.”
Coleman is also represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.
Representatives for the Boston Police Department did not respond to an email seeking comment.