Friday, February 26, 2016

Autism and The Police

Rev. Paul, Way Up North, had a post that prompted this post.

My oldest son, now 46, has been autistic since birth. No good explanation as to why but his mother was in labor for 36 hours. He was in a transverse position. He has given me permission to relate some of his history.

Autism spans a broad range of behaviors and impairments. In his case it seemed his brain didn’t process stimuli in real time – always with a noticeable delay.

Our first interaction with the police was at a department store in Salt Lake City. We turned around and he was gone. Two police officers showed up and helped search. Two hours later a clerk discovered him among the shelves under a display island. He hated going into stores. I had a pair of ear protectors he latched onto and wanted to wear them. We indulged him and he was happy to go into stores so long as he was wearing them. Seems the florescent lights made a noise he could hear and was painful.

Fast forward to his teen years. With the help of some gifted and dedicated Special Ed teachers he was able to function fairly well in school (still special ed) and society. Around age 16 he started demanding money from his mother. She told him no. He then tried to rob a tavern.

He entered the back door of a tavern one night armed with a marshmallow  stick and demanded money. The police were called. When they entered the back door, he let out a screech and charged them.  They wrestled him to the ground, handcuffed him, and took him to the police station. I was called and went down. The two officers were visibly nervous as they explained the situation to me. He was fairly well scuffed up. They relaxed after I thanked them for their professionalism in not shooting him. Even though he is only 5’4” and 135 lbs, charging two police officers with a “weapon” in dim light is a recipe for disaster. They let me take him home where I was able to learn his motivation.

Seems he “owed” some drug dealer money and the dealer was threatening him. He was robbing the tavern to get money to pay the dealer because his mother wouldn’t give it to him.  I found out where he was to make payment and a description of the dealer. I showed up in his place. The meeting did not go well for the drug dealer.

Now 21, he had a job in the deli section of an upscale grocery store in Bellevue, WA. One morning he stepped off the bus and was hit by a bicyclist. They went head to head. In the weeks following he went back to zero. The road to recovery was rocky. We did extract enough money from the bicyclist’s insurance company to find a condo for him and purchase it. Then came his knight in shining armor period.

Seems one of his friends claimed she was raped. My son went to the “rapist’s” door armed with a butter knife to do who knows what. My son got punched, the police were called, and my son was arrested.  Some butthead Assistant District Attorney laid attempted murder with a deadly weapon and other charges and got bail set at $300,000. He spent the next four months in the King County (WA) jail awaiting trial. Here is where professionalism came into play. The correctional officers kept him safe. It wasn’t pleasant for him but it could have been a nightmare. When his case finally went in front of a judge, she tossed the whole case and spent ten minutes publicly berating the ADA.

From jail he went to a mental health facility for a year and then to a less restrictive placement where he remains. He works in the kitchen and has a part time job selling an alternative newspaper outside a coffee shop in the Seattle Fremont district.

He has had interactions with law enforcement over the years, mainly positive. Once two street hustlers got his bank card from him. He went to his bank and they called the police. He made a big hit with the investigators when he gave them a stick figure drawing of the suspects to help identify them. A less positive experience was being robbed of his leather coat and luggage in the Chicago Amtrak station while a police officer was in the area and didn’t intercede. Of well, Chicago where you need to pay to play.

I truly appreciate the police officer that have been involved with my son (and his siblings, another story for another time). They have been professional, compassionate, and caring. They deal with human misery and dysfunction at a level most of us will never, thankfully, experience.

Please don’t feel “sorry” for me as the parent. Life isn’t always fair. I get up every day and start putting one foot in front of the other. Somehow it usually works out. Feeling sorry for yourself just makes you sorry,  and a burden on those around you. YMMV


  1. I remember when I picked him up at the train depot after he was robbed. I called Amtrak and spoke with their investigator. I put my nephew on the extension and he gave the details to the investigator. The gentleman was very impressed and courteous. He didn't just blow him off. Nothing ever came of it, but I was grateful for the "hearing" my nephew got with Amtrak. Aunt Sisty

  2. I don't feel sorry for you. I am impressed. It takes a big man to do what you have done, and not running away from what you had to do. That also involves love, too, Nope! I'm impressed. I am not so sure I could be that strong.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. I'm sure I've been strengthened by the large extended families I'm part of and the many examples of staying strong in the face of adversity.

  3. Plus a bunch on CP. Standing up and dealing with the issues rather than foisting him on the uncaring health care system is a mark of a strong and gentle person.

    1. Thank you. I didn't write this post to troll for compliments - more as to show police in a positive light.

    2. It does, but it ALSO shows YOU in a positive light... Kinda counters the 'persona' you like to present... :-)

  4. Applause button! I lurve you. This made me lurve you even more. Bless your son.