Lynn Freeman shot herself shortly after Flagstaff police and a behavioral health technician from Terros Health left her at home with a gun in 2017.
Her family says both the city and the mobile crisis response provider are liable for Freeman’s death.
A 2017 complaint filed by Freeman’s mother, Georgia Terry, against the City of Flagstaff and Terros Health claimed police officers failed to protect the woman, knowingly leaving the 54-year-old woman intoxicated in her home with access to a gun after she told police she was suicidal. The officers dispatched a Terros Health behavioral health technician to respond, but the tech left about 30 minutes later after they failed to convince Freeman to open up to them, the complaint alleged.
After nearly four years, the Flagstaff City Council approved the settlement with Freeman’s family for $50,000 in December. Jason Bliss, the attorney for Terry, confirmed Terros settled for a separate, undisclosed amount.
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All parties involved declined to comment on the settlement.
Bliss said neither he nor Terry could comment as they signed a confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement. Sarah Langley, interim public affairs director for the City of Flagstaff, declined to comment as the city generally does not comment on litigation or settlements.
A spokesperson for Terros confirmed they have been working with all parties involved, but couldn’t provide any additional details due to patient privacy laws and provider-patient confidentiality.
The settlement comes just months after the Flagstaff City Council approved a $2.5 million contract with Terros Health to develop and employ an alternate response mobile unit in the city.
When questioned if the settlement will have any impact on the contract, Langley said the city has “many contracts with providers of multiple services, and the alternative response agreement with Terros is such a contract; contracts exist separate and apart from litigation.”
The partnership is expected to start in early 2022.
Family: ‘The City failed her.’
Flagstaff police were dispatched to Freeman’s home on the night of March 21, 2017, after Freeman’s sister alerted authorities that she received an “alarming” text message that she intended to harm herself, the complaint detailed. Freeman’s sister told the dispatcher her sister had a history of suicide attempts. Freeman was “drinking alcohol, crying and requesting help,” according to court documents.
She was experiencing a mental health crisis after receiving divorce papers from her estranged husband. He was at the home when police responded and told officers there was a shotgun in the home, but he was unsure if Freeman knew that.
According to the complaint, Freeman told the officers, “I do want to kill myself, so you might want to take me in.” She allegedly did not respond when questioned whether she had a weapon in the room and the officers did not ask again.
The officer’s statements included in the police report indicate they might not have properly heard her. They did not transport her to a hospital or behavioral health facility, but instead requested the help of Terros. The local behavioral health provider was contracted to provide crisis intervention services and a technician arrived shortly after. The complaint alleges that the officers did not inform Terros of Freeman’s past suicide attempts or the other risk factors. The technician allegedly didn’t request any information either.
The officers left shortly after as the technician told them they were no longer needed, the court documents detailed. The complaint alleges that the technician spent approximately 30 minutes with Freeman before leaving the woman alone with her estranged husband and access to a weapon, alcohol and prescription pills. The tech said they would follow up by phone the next morning.
Freeman and her estranged husband began arguing “almost immediately” after the tech left, according to the complaint. Freeman then returned to the bedroom, where she got a gun and reemerged to shoot herself in front of him.
Freeman died later that night, leaving behind her adult son and family. Her organs and tissue were donated. She had recently put a down payment on a new home and told friends and family she was looking forward to starting fresh.
The notice of claim alleges that the city’s negligence in failing to protect Freeman and properly train its officers to interact with a person experiencing a mental health crisis, along with the responding behavioral health personnel, resulted in her death.
“Lynn needed help getting through one short crisis in her life. She asked for help. The City failed her. Her family will forever pay the price,” a representative for the family wrote in the notice of claim.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
Reporter Bree Burkitt can be reached at 928-556-2250 or email@example.com.