More bad news for the law enforcement community. A video has surfaced of an officer’s interaction with a 14-year-old boy with autism. The officer mistook his behaviors for signs of drug use, and confronted him in a park. When the boy wasn’t able to comply with the officer’s verbal commands, the officer forcibly restrained him. And now the family wants answers.
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The encounter between Connor Leibel and Buckeye, Arizona police officer Officer David Grossman happened back in July. Leibel was in a public park. His care giver had walked his younger sister across the street for a piano lesson and left Leibel by himsilef.
That’s when Officer Grossman found him. When the boy wasn’t able to explain what was happening, the officer attempted to handcuff him. Leibel resisted, and the officer pushed him into a tree, leaving Leibel scraped up.
There is body-camera footage of the incident, and it seems to show an officer doing his job. At least that’s what his department has concluded. It also shows an officer who clearly doesn’t recognize the behaviors associated with Autism over-reacting.
“The family is anguished about what happened to Connor,” the family’s statement reads. “It’s astonishing that even after an internal investigation, the Buckeye Police Department claims it did absolutely nothing wrong.”
“The internal investigation found there was no use of force,” said Buckeye Police Department spokesperson Detective Tamela Skaggs.
She, and others, praise Grossman’s record. He is a top DUI officer and a treained drug recognition expert.
Grossman saw what he thought were signs that Leibel had been using an inhalant of some sort. He also didn’t recognize that the boy was a juvenile.
Leibel, the famiy contends, was “stimming.” The behavior is a coping mechanism that allows Connor to keep calm. In his case, he flicks a small piece of string in front of his face repeatedly.
The family, upset that the officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing, has made some demands of the department.
“The family is asking for three things to help seek justice for Connor: first, a personal apology from the officer; second, that the officer perform community service with the autistic community; and third, that Buckeye institute a mandatory training program to prevent an incident like this from ever happening again.”
The department is evaluating the demands.