Transit cop fired after beating up autistic Minnesota teen he suspected of drug use
A transit police officer who was accused of attacking a teenager who has autism has been fired.
The mother of 17-year-old Marcus Abrams said the boy was standing Aug. 31 near the tracks at a light rail station in St. Paul when police approached him, reported KARE-TV.
The officers, identified as Peter Buzicky and Richard Wegner, approached Abrams and some friends after one of the boys briefly stepped on the light rail tracks.
Abrams, who has Asperger’s syndrome and wears specially magnified glasses because he is legally blind, was wearing headphones and couldn’t hear Wegner’s order to place his hands behind his back.
Police suspected Abrams, who was returning home with friends after working at the Minnesota State Fair, was intoxicated or using drugs.
Wegner grabbed his wrist and the teen backed up, so the officer grabbed the boy by his vest.
“He was able to cock his left hand by his left ear while looking right at me telling me not to touch him,” Wegner wrote in his report.
The boy’s mother said his autism, along with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and “touch-sensory issues,” makes Abrams extremely sensitive about his personal space.
Wegner said he used a “leg sweep takedown” to drop Abrams to the floor and then placed him in a neck restraint after the boy tried to hit and kick officers.
“One grabbed my arm and the other one grabbed my wrist and I told them to get off me — I did nothing wrong,” Abrams told the TV station. “They just slammed me right on the ground. I tried to get them off me and (one officer had his) whole body on my whole face and I couldn’t breathe.”
A bystander who recorded video of the encounter can be heard telling police that Abrams was suffering a seizure as they physically restrained him.
The boy’s mother said he actually had two seizures during the incident and was hospitalized afterward, but she said officers should have realized her son suffered from a mental disability.
“Just by talking to him they should have known that something in his mind was not right,” Maria Caldwell said.
A Metro Transit spokesman said the incident, which sparked protests by the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter movement, had prompted special classes for transit officers to identify and properly interact with people living with a mental illness.
Wegner was fired over the weekend, after Metro Transit said he had failed his probationary period, which began in March.
He had been a part-time transit officer since 1993 and hired full-time earlier this year.
Civil service rules allow officers to be “summarily dismissed” during their first year.