Licking County Mom Says Police Acted With Excessive Force Against Her Autistic Son
A Licking County mother says police are responsible for bruises and scrapes on her 11-year-old autistic son.
She says her son’s special needs require special treatment. What he got instead, she says, was physical abuse.
11-year-old Micah Hollins appeared calm and content Thursday. Visible bruises and scrapes were the reason he was home, and not at school with his classmates.
He's been diagnosed with autism and bi-polar disorder.
His mother, Holly, says cognitively, he's more like a 6 year old. "He has zero reasoning skills,” said Holly Hollins. “He did testing at the Autism Center and they said he cannot reason these things out and needs talked out of things."
Holly was called to Micah's school, The Citadel, on Tuesday over an incident detailed in a Newark Police report.
"The officer observed this student strike a teacher,” said Sergeant Paul Davis. “Actually kicked her in the chest. At that point the officer subdued the juvenile. Held him down on the ground and tried to get him to calm down."
Micah's mother says that is the last thing officers should have done. She says his autism makes him highly sensitive to touch and restraint. "They have the notes, all the letters from the doctors and the autism center and his psychiatrist saying ‘Do not touch him. Do not restrain him.’ Because he will get violent. He does not respond to that. And they knew this."
"That's good in theory,” said Davis. “But when he's lashing out and striking people we can't just stand back and watch. We do have to put our hands on him."
Holly says the marks on her son’s body are proof the response was excessive.
"Abuse. Child abuse,” she said. “Because if we did this to our kids, we would be sitting in jail."
"That's not totally true,” said Davis. “If she put those marks on him on purpose, as discipline, we're talking one thing. But to hold him down and secure him and keep him safe, she would not be charged with anything. And that's what the officers did. All they did was what it took to keep him safe, and try to get him to calm down."
Sergeant Davis says his officers are trained to handle the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.
Training includes de-escalation tactics, and using as little force as necessary to restrain someone who might harm themselves or others.
Newark Police are conducting an internal investigation of how the officers handled the situation. They have also forwarded the case to the prosecutor's office for consideration of juvenile charges against Micah for assaulting his teacher and the officers, although they believe that's unlikely.
Micah's mother has withdrawn him from The Citadel, and is looking for a new school.
The Citadel and the Licking County Educational Resource Center did not return our calls for comment.