The family of Victor Duffy Jr. spend their days living lives filled with emptiness.
“My heart hurts every day,” said Victor’s mother, Deann Mills. “It shouldn’t have been like this.”
Duffy died in June after being tased at his home by Tukwila police. The 25-year-old was known for his kind heartedness.
“He would come to my house with no shoes or coat on and tell me he had given them to a homeless guy along the way,” said his grandmother,Jean Mills. “We’d buy him more and he’d just do the same thing all over again.”
Duffy was bipolar, off his medication and had called 911 in a delusional panic on June 30. The family says things were going fine, until police told them to leave the house and close the door behind them. Moments later they heard the crackle of a taser that sent Ron Fortson’s stepson bolting outside.
“Victor breaks out the door with a look in his eye, just a horrible look...like he was gonna die,” said Fortson.
Duffy died later that day.
A lawsuit filed against the Tukwila Police Department claims he was complying with all orders and not threatening police in any way. It also states that Deann Mills asked police not to use a taser on her son because he was very fearful of police. The family is at a loss as to how things could have escalated so quickly.
“If he was stealing, robbing, using dope, selling drugs, I could understand this,” said Fortson. “But I don't understand any of this because he didn't do any of those things.”
The lawsuit claims Duffy had suffered brain damage as a result of a beating by Tukwila officers 6 years earlier when he was caught tipping over trash cans. Since that time he became reclusive and would go weeks without leaving his room. He was afraid police would come back and “finish the job,” according to court documents.
Exactly what happened behind that closed front door remains unclear. Ron Fortson says one thing is certain. “These were people who were supposed to help him. And he died.”
The medical examiner's report lists Duffy’s cause of death as "excited delirium following physical restraint." It does not state whether the taser contributed to the young man’s death. The Tukwila Police Department says the incident is under internal review, and declined further comment.
Family members say they hope the $15 million lawsuit forces police to change their procedures in dealing with mentally ill people.
In a prayer circle around her son’s grave, Deann Mills spoke quietly through her tears. “We will fight for you, my son. We will bring you justice.”