Arizona cop roughs up autistic teen on video over suspected drug use — but police defend his actions
Police body-slammed an autistic teenager they suspected of drug use as he attempted to calm himself in an Arizona park.
An attorney for the boy’s family posted body camera video Sunday recorded during the July 19 incident, which showed Buckeye police officers approach the jittery 14-year-old and ask what he was doing, reported The Republic.
“Stimming,” the boy says, referring to self-stimulation practiced by people with autism to calm themselves. “I’m stimming.”
The teen backs away from Officer David Grossman, who tells him to stop, and shows police a string he’s holding.
Grossman then asks for identification, and the boy turns and says, “No.”
That’s when police grab him by the arms, turn the teen around and try to place him in handcuffs.
“I’m okay, I’m okay,” the boy says, and then begins shrieking. “I’m okay.”
The officer pulls the boy to the ground and holds him down.
Buckeye police, who released the video Monday, defended Grossman’s actions as reasonable and appropriate, saying the officer believed the teen was high on inhalants.
“I observed some object in his right hand that he hit against his left palm and then immediately bring his hands up to his face in what appeared he was smelling something,” Grossman said in his incident report.
Grossman, who is trained in drug recognition, said he has previously responded to a number of drug calls in that area, which he said justified his suspicions.
“I think it is a recurring problem generally that police officers need to do a better job of differentiating the autistic community and people under the influence of drugs,” said Timothy Scott, the family’s attorney. “I think that there’s a clear need for more training and supervision.”
Police conceded the officer should have been better trained to recognize characteristics of people with autism, and a spokeswoman said the department may set up a voluntary database to help officers avoid triggering individuals during encounters.
They might also distribute colored wristbands so individuals with disabilities could be more easily identified.
Scott said the boy’s family wanted three things from police.
“First, a personal apology from the officer,” Scott said. “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.”