Homeless man's sister files excessive-force lawsuit in his 2016 death

Homeless man's sister files excessive-force lawsuit in his 2016 death

URBANA — The sister of a well-known homeless man who died following a struggle with Champaign police a year ago has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and four of its officers.

An attorney for Chandra Turner, the older sister of the late Richard "Richie" Turner, filed suit in the Central District of U.S. District Court claiming that the officers used excessive force in their interaction with Mr. Turner, 54, on Nov. 16, 2016, leading to his death.

Chandra Turner seeks an unspecified amount of money for her emotional distress and the cost of her brother's funeral.

Named as defendants are the city of Champaign, police Sgt. Tom Frost and officers Michael Talbott, Andrew Wilson and Chris Young.

Champaign police reports said Mr. Turner was drinking about 8:30 a.m. that Wednesday, running in and out of traffic, and yelling at passers-by in Campustown.

Police confronted him in the 600 block of South Sixth Street and got into a struggle with him, during which he became unresponsive. Those officers and paramedics provided medical care but Mr. Turner was pronounced dead at Carle Foundation Hospital at 9:42 a.m.

An autopsy revealed no signs of trauma or injury to Mr. Turner.

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup later said the cause of Mr. Turner's death was an irregular heartbeat due to an enlarged heart and an enlarged left ventricle from high blood pressure.

Northrup said other "significant conditions contributing to death but not related to the cause" were cocaine abuse, obesity, schizophrenia and "physical and mental stress during restraint by law enforcement." State's Attorney Julia Rietz determined in early May that there was "no evidence to support criminal charges against anyone in relation to Mr. Turner's death."

The 12-page suit filed by Chicago attorneys Victor Henderson and Alexandra Roffman accuses the officers of using too much force on Mr. Turner without regard for his constitutional rights to equal protection and due process and protection from unlawful search and seizure.

The suit alleges that Mr. Turner was not committing a felony or a violent act when the officers approached and "forcibly subdued" him, using a "hobble" technique wherein a person's handcuffed arms are bound to his legs.

The suit claims that "one or more of the officers stood by without intervening to prevent the misconduct."

In a press release issued by the attorneys, Chandra Turner claimed no one from the city contacted her after her brother's death.

"No one ever came to visit me. No one ever explained what happened to Richie. ... The city didn't even offer to help pay for his funeral. He may have been homeless, but he was still somebody," Chandra Turner said in the release.

Raised in Champaign, Mr. Turner was a talented football player at Central High School.

Champaign City Attorney Fred Stavins said the police officers involved "were performing their jobs to the best of their ability in their interaction with Mr. Turner."

"Chief (Anthony) Cobb expressed the city's condolences publicly to the Turner family last year. We echo those condolences today," said Stavins.

"The City stands behind its officers and will accordingly vigorously defend this lawsuit seeking monetary damages against the officers and the city," he said.

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