Police release body-cam video of Buckeye cop's detention of teen with autism

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(Source: Buckeye PD body-cam video) (Source: Buckeye PD body-cam video)
(Source: Buckey PD body-cam video) (Source: Buckey PD body-cam video)
(Source: Connor's family) (Source: Connor's family)
(Source: Connor's family) (Source: Connor's family)
(Source: YouTube) (Source: YouTube)
BUCKEYE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Buckeye Police Department on Monday released body camera video of an officer's interaction with and detention of a teenager with autism.

It says their officer did not cross the line, but the boy's family and their attorney say otherwise. 

It happened the afternoon of Wednesday, July 19 at a park in the area of Village and Main streets in the Verrado neighborhood. 

[RAW VIDEO: Buckeye PD body camera video of detention of autistic teen]

"Buckeye Police Officer Grossman, a state certified trainer in drug use recognition, observed a teenager alone in a park," according to a news release from the agency. "Grossman observed the teenager moving his hand to his face in a manner consistent with inhaling, and then observed the teenager’s body react accordingly after that movement."

At that point, according to the Buckeye Police Department, Grossman contacted the teen, named Connor, and asked what he was doing. Grossman stated in his incident report that Connor appeared to have something in his hand, which he held "upright with a closed fist," and "was sweating profusely." 

Connor can be heard in the video trying to explain to the officer what he was doing. He called his behavior 'Stimming' and seemed to hold something up to show the officer 

Stimming, which in the autism community is well known to mean 'self-stimulating,' is a repetitive behavior used by those with autism to calm themselves. 

For Connor, that means holding a piece of yarn close to his face. 

"Had an officer received any kind of meaningful training on autism or people with developmental disabilities, he would have known exactly what Connor meant," said Timothy Scott, Connor's attorney. "He couldn't have put it in plainer language precisely what he was doing and yet the officer ended up grabbing him and putting him on the ground."

Seconds later, the teen turned around and started to walk away. That's when Grossman grabbed his wrist. The teen struggled and can be heard screaming.

That is not an uncommon reaction by a person on the spectrum when he or she is touched by somebody he or she does not know, or even by somebody familiar.

Grossman, unaware he was dealing with a minor, let alone a minor on the spectrum, was on the ground with Connor for about 2 minutes.

 'It just happened so fast that the officer had to make a split second decision when the subject began to walk away from him," Det. Tamela Skaggs with the Buckeye Police Department said during a news conference Monday. 

Connor had been left alone for just a few moments as his caretaker went across the street to visit a local business.  

"I wouldn't go so far to call him independent, although being left alone for very short periods of time is part of his therapy. So to be in a park for 5 minutes in a familiar surrounding is something he's supposed to do for his own growth and therapy," said Scott.

"During this time, the teenager’s caretaker [his aunt], who had been absent when Grossman first arrived, showed up on scene and advised the officer the teenager was autistic," according to BPD. "When a second Buckeye officer arrived, the teenager was released and allowed to sit next to his caretaker. There was no escalation of force and the teenager was only briefly detained during the incident."

The on-duty patrol supervisor heard the sounds of Grossman's mic clicking over the radio along with "the obvious sounds of a struggle being transmitted," and responded to the scene believing Grossman might be in trouble. Shortly before arriving, he heard a call from another officer indicating that everything was fine and the situation was under control.

He said in his supplemental report that Connor's aunt came over and told him she was "grateful" the other officer "was there to help Officer Grossman because Officer Grossman seemed 'panicked' during the ordeal."

Connor's lawyer, Timothy Scott, uploaded a 43-second excerpt to YouTube in which Grossman is heard asking the teen what he was doing and telling the boy to "stop walking away from me."

[WATCH: Video excerpt posted by lawyer]

The full body camera video is 21 minutes. 

While the police department maintains that Grossman and the boy fell during the scuffle, Scott's description on YouTube is quite different -- "police officer detains a 14-year-old autistic boy and slams him to the ground."

The short YouTube clip ended with Grossman telling Connor not to move, asking him if he understood and Connor yelling what sounded like, "I'm OK."

Photos from Connor's lawyer show larges scrapes on his back and the back of his right arm, as well as a scrape near his right eye.

"The heartbreaking aspect of this case is that his family has always taught him that he can trust policemen and firemen but now he's terrified of the police," said Scott. "He does make comments still, months later, about 'Are the police going to hurt me?' and 'You're not going to hurt me, you're not the police are you?'"

Scott, who is based in San Diego, said via Twitter that his client wants an apology from Grossman, for Grossman to do community service with the "autistic community" and training for all Buckeye officers.

"If Buckeye PD does those 3 things, we will be flexible in resolving the boy's financial damages, but those 3 issues are mandatory," he tweeted from his apparently new Twitter account.

Skaggs said the department plans to use Grossman's body-cam video to train other officers.

"We are going to learn from this and hopefully deal with these situations differently," she explained, saying that Grossman was operating "as a drug recognition expert."

"That's was he thought was going on at the time based on his training and experience," she said, explaining that things de-escalated once Grossman was made aware that Connor is on the spectrum and as such might displays behaviors that could be misconstrued.

"If you watch the entire video, things were dialed down very quickly -- with the juvenile, with the officer, with the caretaker coming over and everything," Skaggs said. "We learned a lot from this video. ... We will take any type of training that we can get from again, from this incident, any other incident and we can learn from, we can better ourselves from."

[WATCH RAW VIDEO: Buckeye Police Department news conference]

She also briefly mentioned a program in which "any person with any type of disability" could register with the department so officers who come into contact with them might be able to quickly learn about them and adjust their behavior accordingly. "We've talked about maybe wearing different bracelets for autism, somebody with bipolar [disorder], different types of disabilities," as a sign to officers that there might be some special circumstances in play and extra care might be in order.

[PDF: Buckeye Police Department's incident report]


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