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They Thought He Was Dead. Then He Showed Up at a Party

2 families suing Chicago PD, hospital after one family took wrong man off life support
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 5, 2019 11:35 AM CDT
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Korawig)

(Newser) – The grief-stricken family of Alfonso Bennett was planning his funeral after taking him off life support—until he showed up at a party. ABC News reports on the story out of Chicago that now has two families suing the city's police department and Mercy Hospital for a tragic case of mistaken identity. Per the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, Elisha Brittman, 68, was found badly beaten and naked under a car on April 29 and brought to Mercy. He was listed as "John Doe" for two weeks, until police used a mugshot to ID him, even though his face was severely disfigured from the beating. The problem is, Brittman was IDed as Bennett, who was traveling out of state at the time. Bennett's family was notified, and when doctors recommended Brittman be taken off life support, Bennett's family gave the OK, with Brittman's family still frantically searching for their own missing relative.

Bennett's sister told reporters Wednesday that when she and her other siblings told Mercy staff that Brittman didn't look like their brother, they were simply told they were in "denial," per the suit. Brittman died in hospice care three days after Bennett's family took him off a respirator, and the Bennett family started making funeral arrangements for who they believed was Bennett. It all unraveled when Bennett showed up at a family party after his trip, per FOX 32. "He's here! He's alive!" another sister told reporters someone at the party yelled. Brittman was then correctly IDed at the morgue via fingerprinting. The suit contends that cops should've used fingerprinting, not a mug shot, as a "definitive" ID for Brittman; a police rep says fingerprinting is only used as a "last resort" due to privacy issues. The Chicago PD is investigating. "To say that we currently have questions is an understatement," it says in a statement. "We have detectives looking into every aspect of this incident." (Read more mistaken identity stories.)

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