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Family of Tanisha Anderson Claims Excessive Force, Wrongful Death in Lawsuit

Tanisha Anderson in an undated photo provided by a family representative.
Tanisha Anderson in an undated photo provided by a family representative.

On Nov. 12 last year, the family of 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson called police. Anderson had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and was in distress.

According to the lawsuit, after police put her in the back of their cruiser, Anderson tried to get out.

The complaint says an officer then threw her to the ground, pushed her head into the sidewalk and placed his knee on her back while handcuffing her.

Anderson stopped breathing, the suit says, and was later pronounced dead.

"The force used by the officer on Tanisha was unreasonable," attorney David Malik said in an interview. "That’s the allegation and that’s in fact what occurred in this case. The second cause of action is a cause of action for wrongful death.”

The suit also alleges assault and violation of Anderson's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A spokesman for the city of Cleveland declined to comment. City lawyers haven’t yet responded to the suit in court.

Cleveland police union president Steve Loomis disputed the lawsuit’s account of events, saying Anderson fell to the ground.

"Those officers were there. They spent 45 minutes trying to talk her into the back of that police car so they could take her to St. Vincent at her family’s request and get her the treatment that she needed," Loomis said in an interview. "Those officers were there to help her, and they did nothing to agitate or precipitate what caused her demise."

The county medical examiner listed the cause as sudden death connected with Anderson’s mental illness, heart problems and her being physically restrained.

The death was ruled a homicide, which doesn’t necessarily mean a crime was committed. A prosecutor and grand jury will decide whether criminal charges are warranted. Police say they are investigating the death, and when finished, will turn the case over to the county prosecutor.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.