Mentally Ill Woman’s Death in Police Custody Ruled a Homicide

Courtesy of Joell Anderson
Courtesy of Joell Anderson

A mentally ill Cleveland woman died in police custody nearly two months ago because she was physically restrained in a prone position, a coroner announced Friday, the Associated Press reports. A heart ailment and bipolar disorder also were found to have contributed to her death, the report says.


As a result, the medical examiner in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, where the city of Cleveland is located, ruled the death of Tanisha Anderson, 37, a homicide, AP reports. The coroner made a finding of “sudden death associated with physical restraint in a prone position,” while also citing coronary artery disease and Anderson’s bipolar disorder.

Cleveland police said that the death is under investigation and that the two officers involved are on restricted duty. The department is already under heavy scrutiny after the U.S. Department of Justice last month released a report that found excessive use of force and civil rights violations by Cleveland police, AP says.

Anderson died Nov. 12 at a hospital after she was handcuffed, taken into police custody and then lost consciousness while having a mental-health episode, the report says. Relatives said she was schizophrenic and accused officers of using excessive force against her.

The homicide ruling comes amid accusations nationwide of police violence in black communities. The issue took on greater urgency after several high-profile deaths of unarmed black men, including Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., at the hands of police, followed by grand jury decisions clearing the white officers involved in the deaths. Garner’s death had also been ruled a homicide by a coroner.

In a statement after the coroner’s ruling in Cleveland, Anderson’s family demanded “a thorough criminal investigation and an independent prosecutor that results in accountability by the police officers and the Cleveland Police Department.”

Read more at the Associated Press.