Saturday, May 21 2022

Akeem Terrell, a 31-year-old transplant from Detroit, moved to Phoenix six years ago.

Like many people who have moved to Arizona, Terrell wanted to start from scratch, hoping to get his life back on track.

But her life ended in a Maricopa County jail at the start of the New Year.

Terrell’s life and death show just how ill-prepared the criminal justice system is to help those struggling with poverty and mental health issues.

Court documents show Terrell had mental health issues, which led to his run-ins with the police.

His family say the grisly death of his mother and the passing of his grandmother haunted him. Now her family bemoans that just as they saw glimmers of hope, he didn’t have time to change his life.

Terrell is survived by his 11-year-old daughter, four sisters and a girlfriend, two of his sisters said in interviews with The Arizona Republic.

“Unfortunately, for me, I’m not going to get to know the person he started to become,” said Jaquitta Terrell, Akeem’s older sister.

Terrell was arrested and jailed by Phoenix police. Phoenix police did not immediately explain why they arrested him.

Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez, spokesperson for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement Tuesday that Phoenix police were in the process of booking Terrell when he “was observed not responding. He received medical attention. and taken to the hospital where he died. “

Enriquez said the sheriff’s office will complete an administrative investigation into Terrell’s death.

His family hope he will be remembered as the generous and friendly person he was.

“It was just a big teddy bear,” said Chantel Terrell-Cheatom, a younger sister.

A GoFundMe account created by the family indicates that Terrell died of “heart problems while in police custody.”

His family, who live in Michigan, are hoping the public can help with donations to transport Akeem Terrell’s body to his home.

“We just want to get him home so his daughter can say goodbye,” Terrell-Cheatom said.

Analysis: Every 21 days, one death in custody

On average, someone dies during arrest or in jail every 21 days in Arizona, according to a Republic survey. The Republic has found at least 64 cases in which someone died in a county jail or during arrest between January 1, 2017 and August 4, 2020.

Of the 64 deaths, 22 were accidents, 17 suicides, 11 natural deaths, seven undetermined deaths and two homicides. In the five remaining investigations, La République could not confirm the mode of death. In 39 of the cases, the person died in prison, while 21 died during arrest. In four of the cases, La République could not confirm a location.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s website confirms that Terrell died on January 1, but has not disclosed the manner or cause of death in his case.

The sisters said Terrell was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and got into trouble with the police while in a mental crisis. Maricopa County Court records show he was charged and convicted of kidnapping and resisting arrest in 2017 and 2019.

His sisters said Terrell struggled to deal with his mental illnesses but always tried to correct his behavior.

Akeem Terrell

Recently, he started attending church, started volunteering to feed homeless people, and was looking to get his GED, the sisters said. He worked for a company specializing in building barricades, the sisters said. They said Terrell enjoyed making friends with everyone he met and staying in touch with them.

The sisters said Terrell’s death follows a tragic cycle in the family.

Their mother, Gloria Teresa Terrell, died almost 21 years ago when she was run over by a trash compactor. According to a press article published in June 2000, the mother hid in the compactor from the security guards who tried to stop her because a store manager accused Gloria Teresa Terrell of stealing a pair of shoes. in a second-hand store.

According to the article on Gloria Teresa Terrell, she was a single mother raising five children with a bi-weekly salary of $ 198 disability check.

At 10, Akeem Terrell appeared at the scene and identified his mother, the sisters said. Since then, Akeem Terrell has lived with the haunting image.

Family struggles continued when the grandmother who raised Terrell and his siblings passed away.

It was then that he decided to move from Detroit to Phoenix, the sisters said.

“Someone for whom the system has no answer”

The sisters said they feared the public would remember their brother as a mere criminal because he was arrested. His run-ins with the police are due to his mental health, they said.

“The only time he had any criminal behavior was when he was dealing with his mental illnesses,” Terrell-Cheatom said.

His first felony conviction in Maricopa County was in December 2017. According to court documents, on July 8, 2017, someone called the police at a Ranch Market grocery store in Maryvale, a neighborhood in western Phoenix. , to point out that Terrell had asked the cashiers for money and was being aggressive.

When police arrived, he pushed one of the officers, refused to leave the store, knocked over things and eventually grabbed a 70-year-old woman by wrapping his arm around her neck and chest, according to reports. court documents. Eventually, the officers managed to subdue him.

He was charged with aggravated assault of an officer, resisting arrest, kidnapping, criminal trespass and shoplifting. He eventually pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping as part of a plea deal.

Terrell said he was hallucinating at the time of the incident.

Akeem Terrell

The prosecutor recommended that he be sentenced to prison. He spent a year and six months behind bars, according to the state Department of Corrections website.

Jamaar Williams, the lawyer who represented him in that 2017 case, said Terrell’s story is a “textbook case of someone to whom the system has no answer regarding his sanity “.

Williams said Terrell was trying to ask for help, but instead encountered violence.

“I remember the body camera video, and trying to tell people he’s scared, trying to get help,” Williams said. “And I remember watching this video wondering why the choice was violence, why it was the answer to that call, and why people couldn’t just listen.”

On December 5, 2019, Terrell was again arrested by police and charged with resisting arrest and aggravated assault against an officer. He pleaded guilty to one count of resisting arrest as part of a plea deal.

According to court documents, Terrell’s vehicle ran out of gas on Loop 101 near Warner Road in Tempe. A soldier from the State Public Safety Department stopped to help Terrell get his vehicle off the freeway.

Terrell began to act paranoid, saying that members of the soldiers’ drug cartel were trying to kill him, court documents show. When another soldier arrived, Terrell started to walk away from the officers on the freeway. One of the soldiers pulled him to the ground. Eventually, one of them used a stun gun on Terrell and also hit Terrell because he was holding the soldier’s wrist and uniform, according to court documents.

Terrell later stated that he had not taken his medication. According to court documents, Terrell said he had done nothing wrong and it was the officers who made the situation worse. Terrell added that “he is supposed to be in a mental health facility, not in jail,” according to court documents.

The prosecutor in charge of the case recommended that he be returned to prison, presenting him as a dangerous man for his previous conviction for kidnapping. Instead, the judge sentenced him to probation, court records show.

“It’s sad to hear that he died in custody. The problem with Akeem (Terrell) was that he was trying to do it on his own,” Williams said. “He wasn’t asking anyone, he wasn’t mad at anyone, he was just trying to provide for himself.”

Uriel Garcia covers public safety issues in Arizona. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @ujohnnyg.

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