NEW ORLEANS — Former New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Glenn Foster Jr. died in Alabama on Monday following a high-speed police chase culminating in a crash, a jail fight with another detainee that drew two guards into the fray and, finally, a desperate but futile effort to get medical help, according to interviews with authorities and his relatives.
Foster, who was balancing a decade-old bipolar diagnosis while forging careers in the NFL and as a business owner in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, was 31. His death came two days after police in Reform, Alabama, arrested him and turned him over to the custody of a local sheriff’s office.
His death remained under investigation Tuesday. Foster’s autopsy was pending, and no cause of death was immediately available, said the Pickens County Medical Examiner & Coroner’s Office.
The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office -- the agency that runs the jail where Foster was taken -- referred all questions to the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation, which confirmed it is investigating the case as an “in-custody death, which was reported Monday, at a medical facility in Northport.”
Foster’s family members said they fear officials delayed potentially life-saving care for him, despite knowing he had been in a series of fights and appeared to be experiencing a mental health episode.
“We want justice for our son,” said Foster’s father, Glenn Foster Sr. “It’s unfair. It’s inhumane. It’s just not right.”
His mother, Sabrina Foster, said, “I can’t get my son back, but we want whoever is responsible to pay for this.”
High-speed chase, crash
Chief Richard Black, who leads the six-member Reform Police Department, said his officers first spotted Foster as he was driving at speeds up to 90 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone. That sparked a chase along a state highway with speeds topping 100 mph and crossing into a neighboring town of Gordo, whose police force joined the chase, Black said.
Police slowed Foster by placing a “spike strip” across the road, flattening all four of Foster’s tires.
“He drove on the wrong side, he ran a couple of cars off the road, but he ended up slowing down in kind of a rolling roadblock,” Black said.
He subsequently climbed a curb and crashed into a business, Black said. Black said Foster engaged in a “small, minor tussle” with officers, but nobody appeared to get hurt, and officers handcuffed Foster and drove him to the Pickens County Jail.
They booked him on counts of reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and attempting to elude police.
Attempt at Bail
Concerned about Foster’s erratic behavior, Black said he spoke at length to Foster’s parents Saturday to make arrangements to bail him out of jail and send him to a hospital in Birmingham for evaluation. Foster’s father said his son had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was about 20 but had mostly been able to manage the illness before the arrest, which occurred as Foster was driving to Atlanta on business.
When the family arrived in Reform on Sunday, Black said he was able to summon a judge, who allowed the family to post a $500 cash bail for his release on the condition that Foster go to the hospital as planned.
The police chief and family arrived at the jail Sunday and the hospital was prepared to admit Foster, Black said. But while they were waiting in the sallyport to get Foster, “something happened,” Black said.
Something went wrong
“We went to bond him out and something happened at the jail and they wouldn’t let us get him,” Black said. “I really don’t know medically what was going on, but based on what I learned, it was not normal.”
Foster Sr. shared additional details. He said he noticed an ambulance pull up, and he asked whether it was for his son. He was told the ambulance wasn’t for his son, but it was there because his son had fought with another detainee and two guards.
Jail records show that after the bail was paid on the traffic misdemeanors, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office re-booked Foster on three felony counts of assault and one of third-degree battery. The jail was holding him without bail on those additional charges when the situation worsened Monday.
Black said the involvement of his officers had ended by then, and he couldn’t comment further.
According to Foster’s father, Black told him that the chief followed sheriff’s deputies as they drove him in a patrol cruiser – rather than an ambulance – to a hospital about a half-hour away from the jail, instead of the facility in Birmingham.
Foster Sr. said he understands his son was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital.
“They said … once he was stabilized, we would visit our son and go back to normal,” Foster Sr. said. “However, normal never occurred.”
Black said he was as surprised as anyone to hear about Foster’s sudden demise.
“This is not a situation that anyone wants to be in,” Black said. “It’s really beyond words. Police do not want any problems, but some things were beyond our control.”
Route to the NFL
Growing up in Chicago, Foster joined the Saints and the NFL in 2013 as an undrafted rookie coming out of the University of Illinois. During New Orleans' preseason campaign that year, he led the team in quarterback sacks with four and QB hits with five while adding a forced fumble to secure a spot on the team for the regular season.
Foster stood out at moments in his rookie year, recording three sacks in 12 games, as the Saints went 12-6, including winning the franchise's first-ever road victory in the wildcard, divisional or conference championship stages of the playoffs.
He was injured partway through the 2014 season — the first of three consecutive, frustrating 7-9 campaigns for the Saints — and only appeared in five games.
The Saints cut Foster prior to the 2015 campaign.
Foster remained in southeast Louisiana following his playing career, working as a contractor, developer and real estate agent. He owned a granite countertop business with retail stores on Magazine Street in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
As recently as October, his Chicago-area alma mater Mount Carmel High School had invited him to speak to students about how he was initially cut when he first tried out for football but hit the weight room and studied the sport until he became a varsity starter in high school.
That led to a scholarship to play college football at Illinois. During his junior year, his girlfriend became pregnant, and he was suspended from his team because of a DUI.
During the speech to students, Foster said he was proud he was able to overcome all of those challenges to make the NFL, and later establish himself as a businessman.
“No matter how many times you get knocked down, whatever obstacle life puts in your way, and whatever choices you make, good or bad, you have to accept it, learn from it, and move on,” he said, according to a report from the school’s newspaper, The Caravan. [LINK: https://mccaravan.org/news/2021/11/03/glenn-foster-08-gives-mc-students-important-life-advice/]
An Illinois state representative was one of the first to share word of Foster’s death on Tuesday.
“No words right now. Rest Powerfully, Little Brother,” said Rep. Kam Buckner of the Illinois State House’s 26th District. “You left your mark everywhere you went.”
Foster’s former Saints teammate Terron Armstead added on Twitter: "I really can't find the words to properly express. You'll be missed bro."