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Ex-New Orleans Saints player Glenn Foster Jr. dies in police custody

New Orleans Saints defensive end Glenn Foster Jr. greets fans before an NFL preseason game against Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Fla. Foster died on Monday while in police custody.
Wilfredo Lee
New Orleans Saints defensive end Glenn Foster Jr. greets fans before an NFL preseason game against Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Fla. Foster died on Monday while in police custody.

Glenn Foster Jr. died in police custody in Alabama on Monday. A father of four, Foster was a former defensive end for the New Orleans Saints and a Louisiana business owner. He was 31.

The circumstances of his death are under investigation and Foster's family is calling for accountability.

"I can't get my son back, but we want whoever is responsible to pay for this," said Foster's mother, Sabrina.

Reporter Ramon Antonio Vargas of The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate joined Morning Edition with the latest.

Police in the small town of Reform, Ala., near Tuscaloosa, attempted to stop Foster's vehicle on Friday for reported speeding. Police say he led them on a chase and deployed spike strips to stop the vehicle, which caused him to crash. Police then arrested Foster and took him to the county jail.

Reform Police Chief Richard Black told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate that he became concerned Foster Jr. was behaving erratically. He says he spoke with Foster Jr.'s parents, who told him the former Saints player had bipolar disorder and may have been experiencing a manic episode. Foster's parents and Black made arrangements to bail him out of jail on the condition he go to a hospital for evaluation.

But on Sunday, when Foster's parents and Black arrived at the county jail, they were told Foster wouldn't be released to them because he had been re-booked on additional counts, including assault, and was being held without bail. Foster's father, Glenn Foster Sr., says he was told by authorities his son had been involved in an altercation with another inmate and was now under the jurisdiction of the sheriff's office.

While waiting at the jail, the elder Foster says he saw an ambulance arrive and was told it wasn't there for his son, but had instead been called for others involved in the altercation, reports The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.

Vargas reports Foster wasn't initially taken to the hospital after that altercation, despite his family's continued attempts to get him medical treatment for the crash, the fight and for his mental health.

On Monday, a judge granted approval for Foster to be taken to the hospital, about 30 minutes from the jail, Foster Sr. told the Washington Post in an interview.

Foster Jr. was taken in a police car rather than an ambulance to the hospital and arrived unresponsive, Vargas reports. He was later pronounced dead and the family is concerned officials delayed potentially life-saving care.

"My son, instead of being dead in a morgue, should have been in a mental facility where they could have treated his mental illness," Foster Sr. told the Washington Post. "Now the fruit has fallen from the tree. Once it's on the ground you can't put it back. That's what they've done. They snatched the life of my son."

State police are investigating his death and an autopsy is pending.

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition Live Blog.

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Nell Clark is an editor at Morning Edition and a writer for NPR's Live Blog. She pitches stories, edits interviews and reports breaking news. She started in radio at campus station WVFS at Florida State University, then covered climate change and the aftermath of Hurricane Michael for WFSU in Tallahassee, Fla. She joined NPR in 2019 as an intern at Weekend All Things Considered. She is proud to be a member of NPR's Peer-to-Peer Trauma Support Team, a network of staff trained to support colleagues dealing with trauma at work. Before NPR, she worked as a counselor at a sailing summer camp and as a researcher in a deep-sea genetics lab.