- Two families are suing the Chicago Police Department and Mercy Hospital, alleging that the police and the hospital were negligent in misidentifying a man who was severely beaten and authorizing the wrong family to take him off life support.
- The family of Alfonso Bennett was shocked when he showed up at a relative’s house after being declared dead.
- The man who died was Elisha Brittman, 69.
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It was a tragic case of mistaken identity that has now led to a lawsuit.
On May 13, Rosie Brooks received a call from a social worker at Mercy Hospital in Chicago looking for relatives of Alfonso Bennett, she told CBS Chicago last month. Brooks said that when she told the social worker she was his brother, the social worker said he was in the intensive care unit.
Brooks and her sister Brenda Bennett-Johnson rushed to the hospital. But the man, hooked up to the ventilator with a tube in his mouth, didn’t look like their brother, Brooks said. She said she had been told that he was brought in after being discovered naked, without identification, his face beaten badly.
Bennett-Johnson said hospital employees kept telling them the Chicago Police Department “identified this person as our brother.”
Eventually, based on the word of the authorities, the sisters signed the paperwork to take him off life support.
Bennett-Johnson said that while making funeral arrangements and grieving, however, she received a call from her sister Yolanda that would change everything: Bennett had just walked through her front door, unscathed, ready for a barbecue.
“I could have almost had a heart attack,” Bennett-Johnson told CBS Chicago.
The man in the hospital, Elisha Brittman, 69, had been misidentified. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Wednesday that the two families filed a lawsuit alleging that the Chicago Police Department and Mercy Hospital were negligent in misidentifying Brittman and authorizing Bennett’s family to remove Brittman from life support without his family knowing.
“They find a guy naked, beat up, under a car, no ID and just take him to Mercy,” Brooks told the Chicago Tribune. “My thing is if it had been a different ZIP code, would it have made a difference? Because you have a John Doe, no ID, naked and under a car, wouldn’t you want to know how he got under the car? Who put him under there? What happened? To me that means black lives don’t matter.”
Bennett told CBS Chicago last month that because of the mix-up, he was struggling to reclaim his disability and Social Security payments.
The Chicago Police Department told the Tribune it had opened an investigation into the death.
The department said in a statement to the newspaper, also tweeted by AJ Guglielmi, its chief communications officer: “To say that we currently have questions is an understatement. We have detectives looking into every aspect of this incident – from the incident response to the circumstances leading to the hospitalization and the notification of family members.”
To say that we currently have questions is an understatement. We have detectives looking into every aspect of this incident – from the incident response to the circumstances leading to the hospitalization and the notification of family members. Details to follow as we learn more. https://t.co/OUGp0CRPVI
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) June 13, 2019
“It just brought a lot of trauma to the family, the Brittman family and the Bennett family,” Tracy Brittman, Elisha’s nephew, told ABC News.
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