CHICAGO — Two Chicago families have filed a lawsuit over a case of mistaken identity after the wrong family decided to take a man off life support.
Alfonso Bennet’s family thought he was in a coma. Authorities told the family he was found naked and beaten underneath a car in April on the South Side.
His family prayed for him, transferred him to hospice and made medical decisions for him. However, they weren’t totally convinced he was really him.
Cannon Lambert Sr. is a lawyer for the families and said, “The Bennet family almost daily would tell docs, nurses and other that they did not believe this was Mr. Alfonso Bennet, their brother.”
“I said, ‘How did you all verify that this is Alfonso Bennet?’” Rosie Brooks, Bennet’s sister, said. “They said ‘through the Chicago Police Department.’”
The family said the felt they did not have much choice and took the hospital’s word. They signed the necessary paperwork. They were with him the day the man died.
But then Bennet turned up at a family party after being out of town.
The man who died was Elisha Brittman. His family had been looking for him for weeks.
“They called 911, they looked to try to make a missing person report but were rebuffed,” Lambert Sr. said.
They even called Mercy Hospital.
Mioshi Brittman, Elisha's sister, said she is grateful for Bennet’s family.
“We really thank you,” she said. “My heart was just glad to hear they are good people that they didn’t just leave him.”
Both families have filed a lawsuit against the city and the hospital. They think someone should have fingerprinted him before he died.
“They find a guy naked, beat up, under a car, no ID and just take him to Mercy,” Brooks said. “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. You carried him to Mercy, didn’t even know who he was and didn’t even take the time to find out. You should have fingerprinted him then.”
Chicago police said they can’t just fingerprint people unless they’ve been arrested. It’s a privacy issue. In this case, they provided an array of mugshots to the hospital of potential identities. Together police and hospital employees decided the man in the hospital bed looked like Bennett so they called his family. Police said they never knew the family was questioning the identity. But they have now opened a death investigation in this case. It was originally just a medical call for someone who was injured.
In a statement CPD said:
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.