Mary Ann Sherman called 911 for help when her 32-year-old son, Chase Sherman, had a nervous breakdown while they were driving in Coweta County, Georgia, to their home in Destin, Florida, on Nov. 20.
Chase, his parents and his fiancee Patti Galloway had returned from their family vacation via plane, and they had landed at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, notes The Newnan Times-Herald.
While they waited in Atlanta for their connecting flight to Destin, Chase reportedly began hallucinating.
Chase “got nervous … about planes crashing, and he just didn’t feel comfortable on a plane," Chase's father, Kevin Sherman, told The Times-Herald. "And we didn't want to get on an airplane and have a scene, so we decided to rent a car" to go back to Destin.
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Galloway said Chase may have used "Spice," a form of synthetic marijuana, before their trip to the Dominican Republic.
After a brief encounter with Atlanta police at the airport when they were getting a rental car, the family was on the road.
“We got him in the car and we took off on I-85," Kevin said. "Chase’s fiancee was driving and Chase was lying in the back with me. He had his head on my lap. He acted like he didn’t know where we were going. And then he jumped up and started a disturbance in the car.”
The family pulled the car off to the side of the road and Mary Ann called 911 for help. Three Coweta County sheriff’s deputies and an ambulance showed up.
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“We were fighting, screaming, trying to calm him down," Kevin said. "It was pretty horrendous in the car. His fiancee jumped back to try to calm him down and she actually got bit. My wife told me just to hit him or something to try to get her arm loose. He let loose of the arm and the officers showed up.”
Kevin said that the deputies "reached across me trying to get the handcuffs on [Chase]."
"I got out of the car and they told me to go back by the ambulance," he added.
Kevin said he saw one deputy use a Taser on Chase, and Mary Ann said she heard a deputy tell her son, “We’re going to shoot you.”
Deputies than used the Taser on Chase again, according to Kevin.
Deputies told Mary Ann and Galloway to leave the SUV. Mary Ann said that the deputies had put Chase in handcuffs, and he was not armed with any weapon.
“More officers kept coming and we think they kept tasing him,” Kevin said. “They were treating him like a rabid dog.”
The Shermans and Galloway reportedly watched the deputies drag Chase's dead body out of the car.
“I think they knew he was done,” Kevin added. “They wouldn’t let us up there.”
The Shermans and Galloway wanted to go to the hospital where Chase had been taken, but Kevin said, “They kept us there for over an hour" to be interviewed.
Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager said the family was not there an hour, but deputies had to get a statement from each of them, even though the family members could have exercised their Fourth Amendment right to remain silent.
Mary Ann said that one deputy told her, "We had to protect ourselves," a theme that was echoed by Yeager.
“There’s a lot going on here that officers have to make decisions on," Yeager said. "The number one decision was to try to keep him contained inside that vehicle … they had to do all they could to ensure not only the other families’ safety but also the EMTs and officers’ safety in keeping that guy contained and not where he could get out and cause more mayhem."
However, Yeager didn't mention that Chase was handcuffed, per the family's account.
Yeager said that he understands that deputies used a Taser on Chase once, but then Chase allegedly grabbed a deputy's Taser and almost used it on the deputy; Chase was also "dry tased" by a Taser prong that remained attached to the Taser.
Yeager is reviewing video footage from the deputies' body cameras, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is looking into the incident.
The GBI issued a press release on Nov. 21 that matched the deputies' version of the events.
The GBI stated that “throughout the struggle, one of the deputies deployed a Taser in an attempt to control [Chase],” reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The GBI added that Chase allegedly resisted the deputies and the EMTs, and at some point Chase went into a state of medical distress, which is when deputies and EMTs performed CPR on him.
Chase was pronounced dead at a hospital, although it is possible that he could have been dead at the scene.
An autopsy will take place at the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office in Decatur, Georgia, according to the press release.