Coroner: 18-year-old who died in custody had heart attack

Terrell Day

An 18-year-old who died in police custody after investigators say he was picked up for shoplifting died of an apparent heart attack.

The Marion County coroner ruled Monday that Terrell Day died of "acute myocardial infarction, with no penetrating trauma."

IMPD says Day was approached by a security guard at Burlington Coat Factory on East Washington Street after the teen was suspected of shoplifting. Witnesses say Day took off running out of the store after pointing a gun at the security guard. Police caught up with him down the street, lying in the grass behind a gas station at East 10th Street and Mitthoefer Road.

According to police, Day surrendered without a problem. Investigators said they found a gun on him at the time.

It was soon after, according to police, that the teen complained he was having trouble breathing. According to police, an ambulance came and an EMS crew examined Day. They found no indication of an underlying medical condition and, according to the Department of Public Safety, he did not indicate he wanted any further medical attention and signed a release. EMTs cleared him to be transported to jail and left.

Before officers could take him downtown, though, police said Day complained again he couldn't breathe, only this time, his condition quickly went downhill. Police called a second ambulance, but say Day died in the back of it, while an EMS crew worked to save him.

"He had no asthma. He didn't have no history of anything," said Day's mother, Shanika Askew, at her home Sunday.

"I just want answers to why they didn't send him to the hospital when he said he was hurting the first time," Askew said. "Why did they leave and have to come back?"

Despite what police said led to the arrest of Day, his mother isn't convinced her son was shoplifting or had a gun . 

She said he had a job at Taco Bell and was finishing school.

"He could have went to jail, they could have did whatever they wanted to do, long as they could have took him alive," she said.

She said emergency crews should have taken her son's complaints seriously.

"Don't just determine there's nothing wrong with him, cause obviously, there was something wrong with him and they ignored it," she said.

Indianapolis EMS said they extend their sympathies to Day's family and have launched an internal investigation, but said at this point, they're confident the highest level of response and care was provided. 

IMPD is also investigating Day's death.

Burlington Coat Factory sent Eyewitness News a statement saying, "This is an unfortunate incident and we are cooperating with authorities. Thankfully our associates and customers are safe."