A Greenville, South Carolina, mother has filed an excessive force complaint against police after they used a Taser on her adult autistic son and arrested him on Christmas Eve.
Greenville police say that officers were responding to reports of gunshots in the Sullivan Street area Wednesday night, when they saw 34-year-old Tario Anderson walking down the street.
Officer Johnathan Bragg told local news station WYFF4 that Anderson wouldn’t listen to the officers when they asked him to stop three times, and then ran from them.
“When they put their spotlight on him, he immediately put his head down, put his hands in his pockets and began to walk away from him,” Bragg said. “They then got out of the vehicle and approached him and ordered him to stop at which point he did flee from the officers and they pursued him.”
The officers then used a Taser to stop Anderson.
According to Bragg, Anderson was taken into custody after “continually resisting arrest and charged with interfering with police and resisting arrest.”
Tario was evaluated by paramedics and determined to be unharmed, before he was taken to the Greenville detention center. He is currently free on bond, with a court date set for early January.
Tario’s mother, Carolyn Anderson, says that her son has severe autism and does not understand much. She feels there was no need to shock him with the Taser or arrest him, and says that he only ran because he was afraid of the gunshots and the police.
“Tario can say yes or no, he might ask for a thing or two, but just verbal, no,” she said.
“Interfering? Resisting? It’s against the law to take off running? I still don’t understand. I really don’t,” Anderson’s mother said. “I say if you hear gunshots, are you going to stand there and wait to see if the bullet hit you or are you getting out the way?”
Carolyn said her family has lived on Sullivan Street her entire life, and that her autistic son often walks to nearby relatives’ houses in the evenings. The neighbors and police who normally patrol the area all know him.
“He’s no threat to anybody,” Anderson’s neighbor, Bertha Smith, told Fox Carolina. “If he don’t know you, he’s not gonna come at your like that.”
But the officers who responded to the call did not know him, and did not realize he was autistic.
“The officers that responded out there that night did not know that he had a mental illness,” Bragg said.
Dennis Debbaut, the parent of an adult autistic son and a pioneer in training law enforcement members on how to respond to those with developmental disabilities, told the Arizona Star that such cases are not unusual.
Autistic individuals often have violent outbursts when frightened or frustrated. The Inquistr reported the case of a 10-year-old autistic boy who was arrested when he became agitated and violent in school, attempting to hurt himself with a pair of scissors.
“If you didn’t know, it could confuse you to believe they had something to hide or are disrespectful,” Debbaudt said.
The Greenville Police Department is investigating the incident with Anderson, and released a statement encouraging “members of the public to be cooperative with police when stopped and ask to see or speak with a supervisor if they feel mistreated in any way. “
[Image via WYFF4]