Death of Florida Man Tasered in Struggle With Deputies Captured on Body Cameras

Chase Sherman
Chase ShermanCourtesy of family

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By Gabe Gutierrez and Corky Siemaszko

The last moments of an apparently out-of-control Florida man who was repeatedly Tasered by Georgia deputies struggling to subdue him was captured by silent witnesses — the officers' body cameras.

The confrontation, which is now under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, ended with 32-year-old Chase Sherman dead by the side of Georgia highway and his parents wailing in grief.

The deputies who had repeatedly ordered Sherman to stop fighting them during the Nov. 20 encounter also appeared stunned.

"He took my Taser away and started fighting me," one of them could be heard explaining afterward. "Got out of the seat belt, started fighting me. I pull him back a little bit, but I had to Tase him from the back."

Logs indicate Sherman was zapped 15 times while battling Deputies Samuel Smith and Joshua Sepanski.

Chase ShermanCourtesy of family

Sherman's parents, Kevin and Mary Ann Sherman, told NBC News they intend to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

"They never tried to talk him down," the weeping mother said. "They Tased him right in the chest."

Sherman's dad said he wants the Justice Department to investigate his son's death.

"These guys kept Tasing him in the rear, Tasing him in the back," Kevin Sherman said, choking back tears. "He had the handcuffs on him the entire time."

And when Sherman stopped struggling, his dad said, they "ripped him out of the car like a dead dog and dropped him on the concrete."

Coweta County District Attorney Peter Skandalakis said "the review of this case in not complete" and that they have released the footage "in recognition of the great public interest in this matter."

"I extend my condolences to the Sherman family and thank them for their patience," the DA said in his statement.

Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager said his office turned everything over to authorities, and called Sherman's death "a tragic event." In an interview with NBC affiliate WXIA in Atlanta, Yeager said the recording of the panicked 911 call shows the volatility of the situation.

"He is not a victim in this case," Yeager told the station. "The family that called out for help that night, they're the victims in this case. He's the perpetrator ... attacking, assaulting them" and then officers.

"The officers' intent was to get this individual under control and put him in an ambulance and get him to the hospital to get him evaluated," Yeager said.

Sherman’s death was ruled a homicide due to “an altercation with law enforcement with several trigger pulls of an electronic control device,” according to a death certificate obtained by NBC News. It also notes that he had been shoved to the floor of the car and that his torso was compressed “by the body weight of another individual.” It has not been determined if his death was criminal.

At one point in the footage, during a brief lull in the struggle, one of the deputies can be heard foreshadowing the eventual autopsy results.

"He's good now," the unidentified deputy says. "Got all the weight in the world on him now."

The deadly drama began when Sherman, his fiancee and parents were driving home to Destin, Florida, from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

They had been in the Dominican Republic for the wedding of Sherman's brother. And about an hour into the trip, Sherman — apparently reacting to a synthetic marijuana called Spice that he had taken earlier — began hallucinating. He bit his girlfriend and tried to hop out of the car.

Worried, his mother, Mary Ann Sherman, called 911. Skandalakis said she told the dispatcher her son was "freaking out" and "on some kind of drug.”

And at that point, Sherman only had just minutes to live.

The footage, which is edited, shows a car parked on Interstate 85 and the deputies yelling "Tase his a**!" and "Hit him!"

Next we see the chaos in the back seat as the deputies wrestle with Sherman while his mother and fiancee watch from the front seats. Wires, presumably from the Taser, are seen protruding from one of the Sherman's clenched hands.

"Let go of the damn thing," one deputy practically shouts and start slugging Sherman. "Now! Shut your ass up!"

But Sherman continues to fight them.

"What's your problem buddy?" one deputy says. "That's a good way to get shot right there."

While Mary Ann Sherman weeps, her son responds with what sounds like gibberish.

"Y'all gon' need to go somewhere," one of the deputies tells the parents.

But Mary Ann Sherman refuses to go. "No!" she screams. "You're not gonna shoot him! You hear me?"

A deputy pleads for understanding.

"Right now he is being combative," he says. "He tried to take my Taser from me m'am."

Apparently frustrated that backup has not yet arrived, the deputies call again as they try to pry Sherman out of the car.

"Okay, I'm dead, I'm dead," the struggling Sherman declares. "I quit."

But the fighting continues. "Don't kick me," a deputy screams.

Then, suddenly, it is over. A deputy yanks up Sherman's shirt and realizes the man they had been fighting has taken a sharp turn for the worse.

"He got a pulse?" one deputy says.

"Can't feel one," another replies.

Seconds later Sherman is lying on the pavement and a deputy is desperately pumping his chest and trying to save him.

But it's too late. And when the realization hits that Sherman cannot be saved, one of the stricken deputies who had struggled with Sherman shows his colleagues his mangled handcuffs and tries to explain his actions.

"You okay?" a concerned colleague asks.

"F--- no, we're f------ dude," he says. "We are f-----...I'm f------ fired."

"Naw," another deputy tries to reassure him. "You're fine."

The death of Sherman is just the latest police fatality that was captured on body cameras, a new technology that both law enforcement and advocates for victims or police violence are embracing.

Yeager, the sheriff, told WXIA that deputies wear body cameras to avoid the disputed accounts that have occurred in other deadly police encounters.

"Those officers didn't arrive on that scene to kill somebody," he said. "Unfortunately, that was the result that this individual died. But that was never the intent of anyone out there."