GREENVILLE — The family of a 39-year-old schizophrenic man who died after a Taser struggle with Greenville police officers has sued the city, according to court records.
The Greenville News reports that the federal lawsuit accuses officers of using excessive force against Andrew Torres and violating his constitutional rights. Chief Terri Wilfong is also accused of failing to supervise her officers.
The officers were trying to take Torres into custody for an involuntary psychiatric commitment in 2010 when authorities say he became violent, was shocked with a Taser and died several hours later.
Greenville County Coroner Parks Evans called the death a homicide, saying Torres died because of the physical strain the fight and shock put on his enlarged heart.
Torres began to experience symptoms of schizophrenia of the paranoid type at the age of 21 and was formally diagnosed in 1992, according to the lawsuit. His illness was managed through medication and family support, and from time to time his medication would become ineffective, and he would become paranoid, the lawsuit said.
Before Torres’ death, Greenville police had been called numerous occasions to take Torres to the hospital emergency room for treatment and knew about his condition, according to the suit.
An attorney for the police department has denied the allegations, and a mediation is set for early 2013. A prosecutor cleared three officers involved in Torres’ death.
In its answer to the suit, the defendants said that police had been called to take Torres into protective custody prior to Aug. 9, 2010, and were “generally aware of his mental illness.”
The federal suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.