Grandmother issues plea to have young man charged with supporting ISIS to get the mental health he needs
On Sept. 1, 2016, Debra Thomas called emergency services on her 18-year-old grandson, Keaun Cook, as he was screaming at disembodied voices.
She said Cook’s brother made a recording of the incident, which was played to authorities. In that recording, Cook was screaming expletives against the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other American law enforcement groups while also praising ISIS. Thomas said her grandson said he wanted “ISIS to come over here and chop off people’s heads and fingers.” While that sounded terrifying to people in 2016 when ISIS fear was at its height, Thomas said her grandson was off of his medication was was actually having a schizophrenic episode – not becoming a homegrown terrorist.
“He absorbed everything,” she said. “He would come in and I would have to turn off the news. He didn’t know what he was yelling about when he was talking about ISIS. He just saw what they were doing on TV and that’s what happened.”
Before calling emergency services to her Godfrey home, Thomas had called the mental health crisis line as many as four times. People on the other end of that line told Thomas to call emergency authorities if Cook was threatening to harm people. So she did. She said Wednesday she hoped for only an ambulance to come. Because of the nature of Cook’s threats in tandem with the troubled times in which America found itself again with Islamic extremism, the FBI got involved.
Cook was charged with one count of making a terrorist threat and one for providing material support for terrorism. He was charged with Class X felonies and held without bail – even when Thomas said the FBI dropped the case.
“They knew there was nothing there,” she said. “The public defender knew there was nothing there. Our current lawyer knows there’s nothing there. When [Madison County State’s Attorney] Tom Gibbons was in the news – the national news – in front of all those people, he said thousands of lives may have been saved. Keaun didn’t have guns, he has no idea how to make a bomb. He doesn’t have any access to anything like that.”
In messages provided by Thomas, which were used as evidence against her grandson, Cook sent a message to someone he believed to be a member of ISIS which read as follows:
“Really, because I thought that I was being filmed in the American made movie keanu I mean after all that is how I got my name like what come on now.”
This message followed a traditional Arabic salutation, which Thomas said Cook had no way of reading, translating or understanding.
Thomas said that message was indicative of Cook’s level of schizophrenic paranoia. She said the young man served time in the Madison County Juvenile Detention Home previous to this transgression for behavioral issues. During that time, she said he suffered a lack of mental health treatment and was kept isolated – both of which she said contributed to a steady decline of his mental health.
“When he came out of there, he was taking his phone apart because he thought the FBI was watching him,” she said. “He took the battery out of my phone a few times, too. I’m worried that he is going to blame me for all of this, because I called the cops. I just wanted to get him the help he needs. When the FBI quit investigating, he was at Centerstone, and they could only hold him there for a short time. They told me – they promised me – they were giving the case to Madison County so they could get him the help he needed.”
Instead of that help, however, Thomas said her grandson was again being held in isolation without mental health treatment. In August 2018, Cook was indicted by a Madison County Grand Jury and charged with punching a county deputy while in the custody of the Madison County Jail. This action made some of the jail staff even more concerned about Cook’s mental health, which Thomas said has been in a steady decline since being taken into Madison County’s custody.
Gibbons said Cook has been deemed fit to stand trial based on an exam in September 2016 as well as another in October 2017. In May 2018, a judge ordered the Department of Human Services (DHS) to take Cook into its custody for treatment and another examination to see if Cook was still, in fact, fit to stand trial. As of now, however, Cook is still in the Madison County Jail with no bail.
On Dec. 20 and Dec. 26 of 2018, Cook’s lawyer, Jeff Weishaupt, filed another order to remove the young man from jail and place him into the custody of the DHS, but the DHS has yet to accept Cook into its custody.
“I have no objection to it,” Gibbons said. “I think it’s the correct decision. I believe he should be remanded there for an evaluation. They are the best-suited to do that. DHS is not going along with it. There are no pleadings to accompany it, so I don’t know why they aren’t taking him.”
Madison County Board Chairperson Kurt Prenzler said he has been made aware of the situation with the young man, adding he was going to look into it further.
Madison County Green Party Chairperson Joshua Young said he took the matter to Prenzler, adding Prenzler sent an attorney to speak with him on his behalf. Young said Cook’s case falls into the Green Party’s principles, adding he believes Cook needs to be released from jail and placed into the custody of people who can care for him, adding the lack of mental health treatment for Cook is inhumane.
Source: River Bender