Joell Anderson

Death of mentally ill Cleveland woman in police restraint ruled homicide

Medical examiner cites other health factors, but ruling comes amid strong criticism of police deptartment

The death of a mentally ill woman being held in Cleveland police custody has been ruled a homicide, according to a medical examiner’s report released Friday.

Tanisha Anderson, 37, died on Nov 13 after police officers put her in a “prone” position and the physical restraint played a role in her death, according the Cuyahoga County medical examiner’s report. A heart condition and bipolar disorder were also cited as contributing factors to her demise.

Anderson’s family has called for criminal charges against the officers involved in her death. The Cleveland Police Department, meanwhile, has placed the officers on restricted duty, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

The medical examiner's report comes amid criticism of the Cleveland police after the death of Tamir Rice, 12, who was shot to death by a Cleveland officer while he held a airsoft gun in a public park.

Anderson’s death also comes in the wake of nationwide protests over the killing of unarmed black men by white police officers. Protests erupted in November after a St. Louis grand jury declined to bring charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.

A grand jury likewise failed to indict a police officer over the case of Staten Island resident Eric Garner, 43, who died in July after being thrown to the sidewalk and put in a chokehold by an officer.

According to the Anderson family’s account of Tanisha’s death, an officer put her on the ground and placed his knee on her back and handcuffed her. She then stopped breathing, the Plain Dealer reports.

Police tell a different story, however, describing Anderson as uncooperative, kicking at officers before going limp. Authorities said the incident is under investigation, according to the paper.

A recent Justice Department review of Cleveland police tactics, which found widespread abuse and training shortfalls, identified abuses by law enforcement officers against the mentally ill.

"Officers too often use unreasonable force against individuals with mental illness, individuals in medical crisis and individuals with impaired faculties," the report found, according to the Plain Dealer.

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