RICHMOND, Va. -- From a small room deep inside the Richmond City Justice Center, under the watchful eye of armed deputies standing on the other side of shatterproof glass, an accused killer shared his story – and took a few shots at the system that he says failed him.
Devrick Raquan Gail may look familiar. He was arrested in February for the murder of a man named Davon Daniels, in Richmond’s Mosby Court neighborhood.
Gail had a lengthy criminal history and had just been released from federal prison a few months before the shooting. In his federal case file a CBS 6 reporter found that about three years prior to his release, Gail had sent a handwritten letter to a judge in Richmond.
Gail wrote to Judge E Payne that seven years behind bars had left him mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.
“Anger, aggression, and violence all seem to be reoccurring themes in my emotionally imbalanced life,” he wrote.
He called himself a threat to society and requested to be transferred from prison to in-patient mental health facility for the remainder of his sentence. Without psychiatric treatment, Gail wrote that he was worried he might hurt someone after his eventual release.
“I was at the lowest point mentally, I needed help,” he recalled. “Like talking to me, you wouldn`t believe me, but I have like the emotional control of a toddler.”
He said he can still remember penning this plea for help from solitary confinement.
“I`ve been involved in a lot of fights, at the time I had wrote the judge and the feds, within three years, I had been in 15 physical altercations with inmates and with the cops."
Two months later Gail received a response from Judge Payne, who wrote that he no longer had the authority to alter or amend his sentence.
Gail served out the remainder of his term and was released from the penitentiary in June 2017.
Family members said he was a changed man, but not for the better.
“He wasn`t the same, like, nobody could really talk to him,” Cornelia Gail, who was 15 years old when she gave birth to her son, who she calls Quan, said.
For the vast majority of his 30 years, she`s been the only parental figure in his life; weeks after Quan's second birthday, his father was sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder.
Rodney Dominique Whitaker was 17 years old when he was convicted of shooting and killing his own mother's boyfriend.
“I tried to go see him and take Quan a couple of times, but he would always deny the visits,” Cornelia said.
For the first few years of his life, Cornelia raised her son in the same Mosby Court housing complex where she grew up.
It was and still is one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods.
Gail said having a severe skin problem made life there tough and contributed to his issues.
“Having kids tease me, beating on me, pushing me down in the grass and stuff like that, I think that`s probably where my issues probably started,” he said.
His mother says she didn't want her son to become another victim of the projects, so she moved them to New York.
Quan was just in elementary school, but he became more aggressive, and began to regularly get into fights with other children and have violent outbursts in the classroom.
“I never knew how to label it, we just thought he was bad,” his mother said.
Eventually, she grew so concerned, she took Gail back to Central Virginia.
“My whole thing was always like just trying to protect him and keep him out of prison, that`s why I moved so much,” Cornelia said.
Still, Quan Gail did wind up in prison -- and that is when he says his mental problems went from bad, to worse.
“From the time I was a child to the time I was an adult, the eleven and a half years I spent in prison, nobody addressed my mental illness,” Gail said.
He said that what happened behind bars turned him into a threat to society.
His mother said the whole situation is eerily similar to what happened to Gail’s father when he went to prison years before.
When he was 18, Gail was sentenced to more than a decade for a federal gun conviction and a probation violation. During the course of his incarceration, he would have multiple run-ins with other inmates, and guards.
“When I was in the state I did, from the time I went from Lawrenceville to Red Onion, I would do 24 months in complete isolation,” Gail said.
He said that time spent in the hole put the nail in his mental coffin.
“When you first go into isolation, it`s so loud, from people banging and kicking on the door and yelling, you can`t sleep,” he said. “And then it becomes a point where you get used to the noise, and then the quietness of solitary confinement just starts to drive you crazy.”
That is why Gail said he wrote the letter to the judge and said that serious psychiatric treatment was the only way he could be truly rehabilitated. Otherwise, he feared he would follow in his father's footsteps.
“When his dad went to prison he lost his whole mind, like, people calling me saying Dominique`s gone crazy,” Cornelia said.
When Gail was released from prison in 2017, he spent several months in a halfway house, before moving in with a disabled relative.
He said neither situation helped him get ready for life in the real world.
“The halfway house, they didn`t prepare you for finding a job, they don`t have any real resources to help you get your life back on track,” he said.
His family was worried, and reached out to his probation officer.
“I talked to his PO and told him that Quan was exhibiting behavior that none of us was used to and a couple of the family members was a little nervous cause they say he was paranoid thinking somebody was going to do something to him,” Cornelia said.
In December, Gail missed a court-ordered mental health assessment.
It's unknown what kind of red flags that raised at the time, but less than a week later, police said he killed Davon Daniels in Mosby Court - the neighborhood his mother tried to get him away from all those years ago.
“It's like sometimes you get to a point where you like, I`m just leaving, I`m not fighting this no more,” Gail said.
Cornelia said she did the best she could, but said the system needs to be better, and that prisons should drastically reduce the usage of solitary confinement as punishment.
And she'd like to see better training for the police officers who first respond to mental health calls.
“Cause those situations turn ugly when they should be just a mental health problem, of getting a child in the hospital, getting them the help they need, and getting them back home with the right medication,” Cornelia said.
Quan may end up spending the rest of his life behind bars, and if he's convicted of murder, many would argue that's exactly where he deserves to be.
While he claims he's innocent, he does admit, there were plenty of warning signs and the writing was on the wall.
“From the prison to the judicial system nobody listened to me, it`s like they don`t care, you see what I`m saying?” he said. “Once they sentence you it`s over.
Quan is scheduled to go on trial in October.
During his most recent court appearance, he had an outburst, and told the judge he wished to fire his public defender because the attorney was not willing to pursue an insanity defense.