EXCLUSIVE: Columbus mother seeking answers in son’s death while in police custody

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 11:55 AM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Super Bowl Sunday started out normal for a Columbus family but by 9:30 p.m., their calm was turning into chaos.

Jerrel Ellis lived with his mom and his maternal grandparents at 5009 Aaron Lane on the city’s southside. However, his mother, DuWanna Ellis, was out of town that night when she got a disturbing call from her mother.

“My mom calls me; she said, ‘Hey, you need to call your son, he is tearing the house up,’” explained DuWanna Ellis, who then called her son directly.

“He was like, mom, somebody is in the house. I’m like, Jerrel, ain’t nobody in the house. Mom, I’m telling you somebody is in the house.”

DuWanna Ellis said her son was actually having hallucinations saying he was seeing people, that someone was after him. During the phone call with Jerrel, his mother hears the unthinkable.

“The next thing I knew, he shot the gun. He shot it twice. I started screaming and the phone went dead,” added DuWanna Ellis.

After frantically calling her mom and dad, Jerrel’s grandparents, twice, her mom finally answered the call.

DuWanna Ellis recalled, “He was still shooting; I could hear it in the background.” But shortly afterwards, her son left his home for the neighbors’ house next door as scene on DuWanna Ellis’ home surveillance video.

Jerrel Ellis’ aggressive knock at the door may not have been a total surprise to the neighbor seeing that DuWanna Ellis had already called her neighbor asking him to call police and an ambulance because Jerrel had shot the house up.

“My neighbor indicated that my son ran over there banging on their door. He said, my son was facing backwards as he was kicking, banging and ringing the doorbell all at the same time,” said DuWanna Ellis.

Before the neighbors were able to open the door for Jerrel Ellis, he made an unlawful entry into the neighbor’s home.

“I am guessing when they didn’t come to the door soon enough,” added DuWanna Ellis, “he was still looking for whomever he thought was after him, so he goes through their window face first.”

That window is boarded up now. Family members said they counted at least a dozen bullets holes inside and outside of the Ellis home. Our News Leader 9 team saw two bullet holes in the garage door and three piercings from gunfire on the backside of the house. We were also told one of the bullets landed across the street on the neighbor’s house located directly in front of them, hitting their front door.

DuWanna Ellis said her son was not trying to harm anyone and that he was unarmed when he went to the next door neighbor’s house. That neighbor were able to hold Jerrel Ellis down, at gunpoint, until police arrived.

But, it’s what happened after her son was detained by police that has led to a GBI investigation, requested by Chief Freddie Blackmon.

“My biggest thing is what is the police department’s protocol when you detain a suspect. He was sitting out there at least 45 minutes to an hour because they were looking for a gun,” added DuWanna Ellis.

According to the Columbus Police Department, Emergency Medical Services assessed Jerrel Ellis on scene and out of an abundance of caution, he was taken to the hospital by police for jail clearance. It also states Jerrel Ellis became unresponsive while in the hospital holding room. Staff revived him but were unsuccessful after he became unresponsive a second time.

Three hours after the ordeal started, Jerrel Ellis, was dead. The coroner pronounced him dead at 12:24 a.m. on February 8, 2021. DuWanna Ellis said one of her major concerns is what she doesn’t see on her home video.

“I could see on the vide there was no ambulance on Aaron Lane. The thing is they indicate that the fire station EMT examined my son and said the only cut on his body was on his elbow.”

When it came time to positively identify the body, DuWanna did not go to the facility.

“Four family members who went there and indicated he does have gashes on his face and forehead. So I didn’t know your elbow could be in your face.”

DuWanna Ellis also admitted her son was acting erratically. She said he does not have a history of mental illness but he does have a history with drug use. Duwanna Ellis is hoping she’ll get the answers she is seeking from the GBI’s probe or through the CPD’s Office of Professional Standards’s Unit investigation. Both agencies declined to comment pending their investigation.

“Overall, the police, fire station EMTs and paramedics neglected my son’s mental health. He was sitting their in distress and I’m not trying to say he may not have died, but when it’s your time, it’s your time but they may have speeded up the process”, added DuWanna Ellis.

The results of Jerrel Ellis’ autopsy are still pending.

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