Police attempted to arrest Akeem Terrell after ordering him to leave after he behaved erratically at a New Year’s Day 2021 party and failed to cooperate with Phoenix, Arizona. He died in custody later that day.
now surviving terrell family members is suing Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, the county itself, the city of Phoenix, and multiple officials involved in Terrell’s death. The lawsuit, filed last week in Arizona federal court, sues various alleged violations of constitutional rights and seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs.
As the suit describes, Terrell at the party “expressed bigoted thoughts and made meaningless remarks.” When Terrell did not leave as ordered, police handcuffed him and arrested him. Terrell is over 6 feet tall and weighs 433 pounds, so “the police put two sets of handcuffs together and cuffed his arms behind his back. [Terrell’s] Put your hands behind your back in a strange, painful and unnatural way. “
While Terrell did not attack the police or attempt to escape, he was not cooperative in the sense of being weak; therefore, he was arrested for trespassing and “passive resisting arrest.”
Officers pushed him into a “face-down position on the rear of the SUV” and told the Maricopa County Jail they had an “aggressive inmate.” His lawyer more accurately described him at the time as a “mentally ill patient in a mental health crisis.” His speech made it clear that he didn’t quite understand where he was, yelling, “They want to kill me, they want to kill me” and “It’s just a game. It’s just a show.”
Officers shoved Terrell into isolation cell where they ‘pulled [his] The ankle swept his leg out from under him, causing him to fall to the wall and then to the ground. “His face and head were broken as he fell into the hard concrete,” with his hands behind his back. “
although”[p]Handcuffing a handcuffed person in a prone position presents an immediate risk of death or serious bodily injury. This is especially true for people who are bulky, obese, or barrel-chested. This position is known to cause postural apnea. “Officer” bent over forcibly [Terrell’s] Bring your legs back at your knees so that [his] high heels face [his] Hips” and an officer “put his weight on [his] Legs bent backwards… placed [Terrell] The ‘bondage’ position is known to impair an individual’s ability to breathe and lead to death and serious bodily injury. “
Began more physical abuse of the man who hadn’t left the party when asked, including knees on the lower back and other body parts, also leaving him with difficulty breathing.His last words were “Kill me, kill me.” Officials “ignored [his] Lack of exercise, shortness of breath, keep going [Terrell] In forced hogtie position. “
“When [Terrell’s] Body spasms, which the accused officer viewed as a sign of ‘disobedience,’ and additional pressure and weight were applied,” the lawsuit alleges.
They left him alone on his stomach, face down, and did not seek medical attention for him.The officer “doesn’t move” [him] to the ‘recovery position’ (beside him) to reduce the risk of serious bodily injury or death from the prone position. “
About six minutes later, officers returned to the face-down handcuffed prisoner and found him without a pulse.
That was all, the police said, so they could re-handcuff him with Maricopa handcuffs instead of the Phoenix handcuffs he was wearing when he came in. He turned over his pulseless body and handcuffed him from the front again. He was taken to a medical center and pronounced dead about half an hour later. As of the filing of the lawsuit last week, none of the officers had been disciplined for their role in Terrell’s death in prison.
The lawsuit alleges that the Phoenix Police Department generally “adopts policies, customs, or practices to delay and slow the release of information related to incidents involving the use of force by officers in order to prevent the public and victims of police violence from gaining The Real Facts” and “‘Clearing’ Officer Discipline Records so that Repeat Complaints and Investigations of Officers Cannot Be Recognized, Victims of Police Violence Will Difficult to Demonstrate Excessive Force Customs, Patterns, and Practices in Phoenix”, and “Unauthorized practices involving the use of force by military officers and the deaths of detainees.”
The lawsuit lists at least five other specific instances of deaths of people who were handcuffed and face down while in police custody in Phoenix.
Misconduct by the Phoenix Police Department, now under the federal Department of Justice investigationtoo often report here exist reason. National Bureau of Justice Statistics Report In fiscal year 2020, in federal custody alone, there were “65 arrest-related deaths and 614 deaths in custody.” Marshall Plan Organize bulk reports About deaths in police custody across the country.