Family Sues NYPD Over Death of Mentally Ill Woman

The family of a mentally ill Queens woman who died after police were called to take her to the hospital said Tuesday they filed a suit against the New York Police Department.

According to the lawsuit, Shereese Francis, 30, was suffocated in her home on March 15 by NYPD officers. Francis’ parents, George and Eleen, have filed suit against the officers and the NYPD to require that the department preserve and turn over evidence of their daughter’s death.

“Four police officers were resting their weight on Shereese Francis while she lay face down in a bed with her hands cuffed behind her back,” said Steve Vaccaro, the family’s lawyer. “This particular restraint maneuver has been shown in many, many cases to cause what’s called compression asphyxia. It has killed many people.”

Paul Browne, spokesman for the NYPD, in a statement to WNYC, said that "the Internal Affairs Bureau's investigation of the allegation to date has found nothing to support the claim that the woman was suffocated."

Browne said the Jamaica Hospital attending physician’s finding regarding Francis’ death was “that heart failure was the cause of death” and that there was “no indication of trauma.” He expects the Medical Examiner’s findings will confirm this.

Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's Office, said the cause of death is pending additional testing. It is expected in about two weeks.