Sources: Mental illness and meth use made freeway jumper unstable

Sources: Mental illness and meth use made freeway jumper unstable
Marya Grambs
Marya Grambs

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 37-year-old Pernell Aio was suffering from mental illness but, multiple police sources say, he was also coming down from a drug high Monday afternoon as police were transporting him for a psychiatric evaluation.

Aio was in the back of a police car, in metal handcuffs. A female officer was taking him from the Kapolei station to Castle Medical Center for a mental health evaluation. Police refer to that as an M-H1.

His family had told officers, that Aio was a danger to himself and to others.  And sources say, he admitted to police that he had done meth and had been awake for two days straight.

While on the H-1 Freeway near the Kunia exit, Aio broke the handcuffs, kicked out the back window of the blue and white, and climbed out. He ran, but the female officer and an off-duty male officer -- who just happened to be driving by -- were able to catch him.

They took him back to the car and he apparently calmed down for a few seconds before taking off again, this time, jumping over the ledge.

Cell phone video shows the male officer with his arms around Aio's torso and the female officer clutching his hand.  But Aio's size and strength made it impossible for the officers to maintain their hold.  He died, after falling 25 feet.

"It's very hard to punch out a window of a car," says Marya Grambs, Executive Director of Mental Health America of Hawaii, "This must have been a very, very strong and very, very disturbed person and I don't know what the police could have done differently, because I wasn't there."

Grambs says Honolulu Police make about 3,000, M-H1 transports a year, that's about 8 every day.

"We call our police psychologist," says Honolulu Police Deputy Chief Dave Kajihiro, "And on the recommendation of the police psychologist, we take him into custody."

For many families struggling with a loved one's mental illness, a police transport to the hospital, is the last resort.

"The criteria for police to take someone to the emergency room for psychiatric reasons is imminent danger to self or others," says Grambs, "Many of us feel like that maybe a little too late."

Grambs hopes people try to get help before it gets to this.

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