The family of Glenn Foster Jr., the former defensive lineman for the New Orleans Saints who died Monday in Alabama police custody, has been demanding answers about his death. Now they’ve retained the highest-profile civil rights attorney in America to get them.
“They want answers,” civil attorney Benjamin Crump told The Daily Beast. “They are obviously devastated.”
Foster, 31, died this week in the custody of the Pickens County, Alabama, Sheriff’s department after his family said he was denied medical care. On Friday, Crump—who has represented the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery—said he was brought on to probe the Black ex-NFL player and businessman’s death after they believe he “may have been suffering from a manic episode in the days leading up to, during, and following his arrest.”
“According to his family, Foster Jr. has a history of mental health challenges, which they communicated to the Reform Police Department’s Chief,” a Friday press release announcing Crump’s retention said, referring to another police department involved in his arrest.
Jail records show Foster was booked into the Pickens County jail on Saturday morning on three charges of reckless endangerment, as well charges of resisting arrest and attempting to elude. Reform Police Chief Richard Black previously told The Daily Beast the arrest occurred after an officer spotted the ex-athlete driving 92 mph in a 45 mph zone in a black Jeep Wrangler. Black claimed that when the officer followed Foster, he accelerated to “very high rates of speed” and eventually wound up driving on the wrong side of the road.
The incident prompted an arrest—though the details of his in-custody stay and what led to his eventual transfer to a medical facility are not clear. Foster’s father, Glenn, said in an interview with CNN that his son was bipolar and in “mental distress” before his arrest and eventual time in jail—and that they communicated the ex-athlete's condition to authorities.
On Dec. 5, Foster was set to be released from jail but was re-booked after allegedly fighting with another inmate and two officers. The next day, a judge ordered that he be given medical attention.
“When the family arrived to post bail for Foster Jr. and take him to a mental health evaluation, they were told he had been in an altercation with another inmate and was now under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s office, which delayed his treatment,” Crump’s press release said. “The family was denied visitation with Foster Jr.”
Crump told The Daily Beast the real question in the case is what happened during Foster’s transportation to the medical facility to which a judge had ordered him for treatment following a Dec. 6 hearing. “They said he got in the car and he’s fine, and then he gets to the facility and he’s unconscious,” Crump said, referring to information he said the family has received from the Pickens County Sheriff's Office.
“They want answers,” Crump said, speaking about Foster's family. “They absolutely believe that the sheriff did not treat him as if he was experiencing a mental health crisis. He was more resolved to try to treat him like a criminal, versus a citizen who was having a medical crisis.”
Pickens County Sheriff Todd Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Alabama State Bureau of Investigation, which is also looking into Foster’s death, previously told The Daily Beast that Foster was pronounced dead at a medical facility in Northport, Alabama, but declined to elaborate. The Sheriff’s office has declined to comment, deferring to the state agency.
Crump has made a name for himself by seeking justice for families who have lost loved ones to police brutality, and was once dubbed by Rev. Al Sharpton as “Black America’s attorney general.”
Crump told The Daily Beast that Foster’s mysterious death has left “behind a broken-hearted family that is demanding answers.”
“The portrayal of him as a large man, a former NFL football player, is a classic part of the playbook in explaining and justifying the death of a Black man by police,” Crump continued, adding, “There is no reason why he was alive in police custody and sixteen minutes later he was dead.”
“We will not rest until we get answers and justice for Glenn Foster Jr. and his distraught family.”