Solicitor justifies tasing and arrest of man with autism

Editor’s Note: This news report from last week, launches our series this week on the issues surrounding autism and the criminal justice system. Beside opinion pieces by our reporters and contributors Autism Daily Newscast will also be bringing you some updates on related stories. Reader comments on all stories is welcomed below.

Greenville, S.C. — The police were justified in tasing and arresting a 34-year-old man with autism despite his condition, says Circuit Solicitor Walt Watkins.

Tario Anderson was tasered and arrested Christmas eve of last year after police said he tried to flee while they were trying to approach him.

Greenville police were sent to the area where Anderson was found after receiving reports of gunshots fired near the vicinity.

The manner in which Anderson was arrested sparked widespread outrage among autism advocates, and calls for police to undergo proper training in dealing with individuals on the spectrum has since been made by various groups.

Solicitor Watkins stood his ground, however, and insisted that the policemen who tasered and arrested the man with autism were justified in doing so, for reason that they had reasonable suspicion when Anderson defied their orders and tried to flee from them.

Anderson was said to have put his hands in his pockets and tried to flee from the police when they shone a spotlight on him. Police chased him down and was eventually tasered after he repeatedly resisted arrest.

Anderson’s family was emotional after Watkins cleared the police officers of charges of misconduct. His mother, Caroline, alleges that the policemen used excessive force on her son, and that he was specifically targeted because of his skin color.

But Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller dismissed these allegations. According to Miller, Anderson was stopped by the officers because of the suspicious behavior he exhibited when the police turned up at the vicinity where he was arrested. Miller also dismissed Mrs Anderson’s claims that her son was a victim of racial profiling, saying that this accusation was “unfounded“.

Anderson’s family accused Miller of ‘covering up‘ what they call “criminal actions” of the police officers involved in the incident, and supporters of the family are calling for the Justice Department to investigate the incident.

Local civil rights advocate Rev. Ennis Fant believes the Greenville investigation has been one sided. He told:

“To ask the solicitor to prosecute one of his own officers is like asking him to prosecute one of his own children.”

Contributed by Althea Estrella Violeta

Source: Anna Lee on the Greenville Online website: Solicitor: Police tasing justified