NewsPhoenix Metro NewsCentral Phoenix News


'Help Bury my Son' panhandler tells Valley man he's been begging for 20 years

Posted at 10:36 PM, Sep 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-10 18:15:11-04

He's been dubbed the "Help Bury My Son" guy. His real name is Terry Johnson.  

He's such a well-known panhandler; there is a Facebook group with more than 5,000 members trying to spread awareness about what many believe is a deceptive moneymaking scheme.

There are also several videos posted online of confrontations with Johnson.

Just last week, Valley resident Ron Mack posted one to his Facebook page. In it, you hear Mack telling Johnson he could help find him a job. Johnson responds he is retired and used to work for the state. 

In past ABC15 reports, we found Johnson did lose a child. Records show his son was cremated in 2014, with Maricopa County picking up the bill.

So why do we continue to see him with a sign asking for help to bury his son? Does he have a hard-luck story, or is he just a hustler?

"When I pulled up he had nothing but $20 and $5 bills, and he was counting it," Mack said. "I've seen him everywhere from Mesa to Scottsdale to Ahwatukee."

Mack shot the video near 7th Avenue and McDowell Road less than a week ago.

"I asked him how long ago his son died and he said last week. I said, 'how come you were out there five years ago?', and he stated that he actually had a son that died five years ago as well," Mack said. "So it was very obviously a lie. It was a blatant lie."

Mack said since he posted the video to his personal Facebook page, some people have criticized him for being judgmental.

"They say he's just trying to make ends meet or I have never walked in his shoes. (They say) since I haven't been in his shoes I shouldn't make a judgment, but my thing is this, maybe I have not been in his shoes but I just know one thing he is lying," he said.

But lying in this context isn't illegal. Neither is begging as long as he's on public property.

However, there is a law called "aggressive solicitation." 

This is meant for people who don't take no for an answer, a Phoenix police spokesman said. There are also other enumerated items within this offense such as within 15 feet of a bank or ATM, following someone, etc. Aggressive solicitation is a petty offense.

To see the full confrontation Mack had with Johnson, click here. NOTE: There is strong language.