Illinois teen facing terrorism charges suffers from mental illness, grandmother says

GODFREY, IL (KTVI) - The family of a Godfrey teen who is facing terrorism charges said there is another side to him. Keaun Cook, 18, was charged Thursday with making a terrorist threat and supplying material to support terrorism.

Cook's grandmother, Debra Thomas, said he is troubled, and suffers mental illness She says the system let him down. “I want everyone to know he is not a terrorist he’s just a kid that has paranoia schizophrenia.”

Thomas said her grandson’s problems began when he saw his mother die at age 14. After that happened she said was he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress, “It took him over the edge it took him over the edge.”

Thomas said he wouldn’t take his medicine for his mental problems. When he was off his medication his personality dramatically changed.

Cook's grandmother blames the juvenile justice system for not giving him the help he needed. She claimed he was warehoused instead of treated. She wrote letters to legislators, people in local government even President Obama, asking for help.

"I’ve been pleading for help for five years; five years, and nobody would listen to me until this. The only thing that gets me is, why do you have to wait for a tragedy to get anybody’s attention.” said Thomas.

“I sympathize with any family that has a member of their family radicalized,” said Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons.

Gibbons said mental illness and that other demons that have haunted Cook are no excuse for what happened.

“He is a genuine threat. Madden: A terrorist? Yeah, absolutely,” said Gibbons.

Cook said, “With Keaun on his medicine he is the sweetest lovable person you could meet.”

Gibbons and the Juvenile Detention Center cannot comment on any case by law. Gibbons did say as far as his experience the juvenile justice system is helpful to many young people.