16-year-old autistic boy handcuffed, arrested after he had seizure at a restaurant, says California mother
FRESNO, CALIFORNIA: A California mother has expressed her outrage at police after they handcuffed her 16-year-old autistic son as he was having an epileptic seizure instead of trying to help him and taking him to a hospital.
Lourdes Ponce told KFSN-TV that the incident unfolded after she and her son had just left the doctor following one of his epileptic seizures and gone to a central Fresno 'El Pollo Loco' on January 30.
She said the seizures unexpectedly returned while he was in the restroom at the fast-food restaurant, prompting her to call for help. "I stood outside the door, I heard him hit the floor, I tried to open the door but it was locked, that's when I asked for help," she said.
When employees unlocked the door, the teen was on the ground. A panicked Ponce asked her daughter to call 911, but to her dismay, she found that the police arrived at the scene before the paramedics and tried to restrain her son by forcefully handcuffing him.
"We called paramedics for help, we did not call the police. He was not hurting anybody, he was having a seizure," she said.
The entire incident was filmed on a mobile phone, and as the officer tries to handcuff him, Ponce can be heard screaming, "He has autism, he has epilepsy, stop it!" only for the pleas to fall on deaf ears.
The video even shows the officer trying to force the 16-year-old into the back of the patrol car, and the stress of the situation eventually got to the boy, who started vomiting.
"He saw that my son was throwing up and instead of helping him so that he wouldn't choke on his vomit, they had him on the ground in handcuffs," she said.
The police finally relented after she ran to her car and showed them her son had a history of epilepsy. "After I showed the paperwork, EMS was able to treat him and take him to the hospital," she said.
While he is now recovering from the attack at Valley Children's Hospital, Ponce said he was so traumatized by what happened to him that he was having a difficult time receiving treatment from hospital staff.
She also shared that the police stopped by the hospital the next day with a "certificate of release" form that stated her son would not be arrested, something that she said could have been avoided if they had listened to her in the first place.
In a statement addressing the incident, Fresno police said, "This case is currently under Administrative Review. The review will include the examination of all the information pertaining to the officer's contact including body-worn cameras."