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Family of Tanisha Anderson speaks out, demands justice

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CLEVELAND – The family of a mentally ill woman, who died in Cleveland police custody,  say the investigation into her death has dragged on and they are still waiting for justice.

“We aren’t going to go away,” said Joell Anderson, Tanisha’s brother.  “We want justice.”

Joell Anderson said the criminal case is now being investigated by a third agency.

First Cleveland police investigated Anderson’s death, it was then transferred to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s office, and now it is being transferred to the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

“We want answers now,” said Cassandra Johnson, Tanisha Anderson’s mother. “She was not violent, she didn’t have a weapon, she just didn’t want to get into the police car.  She shouldn’t have died.”

Attorneys Alphonse Gerhardstein, David Malik, and Sara Gedeon, who represent the family, noted Anderson died in November 2014 after she was handcuffed by police.

Cleveland police struggled with her as they tried to take her for a mental evaluation.

Her family says an officer slammed her to the ground, something the police union disputes.

The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide, citing factors including the physical restraint of police as well as her mental illness and a heart condition.

“It shouldn’t take 17 months to figure out what happened,” Gerhardstein said.

The family has filed a civil lawsuit that is pending. The attorneys for the Anderson family are also asking for the civil case to be allowed to move forward, saying it has been on hold while the criminal investigation was taking place.

“Tanisha’s life matters, and we want justice for her, she did not deserve this to happen,” said  Michael Anderson, Tanisha’s uncle.

Her family said while Tanisha had mental health issues she was not a violent person.

"This family deserves some answers,” Malik said. “Civil rights cases are often the only way police officers are held accountable. Indeed here, 17 months after using force and causing the death of Tanisha Anderson, the individual officers are facing no criminal charges, all discipline is on hold, and the claims against them in this case have so far gone unanswered."

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