New York, NY -- 17-year-old Troy Canales was hanging out just outside of his Bronx home last November when two NYPD cops pulled up to harass him.
Canales has autism, and when people talk to him, he has a very hard time making eye contact. Apparently this lack of eye contact led to a brutal interaction between Canales and police.
The 17-year-old boy was thrown to the ground, he was then punched in the face, arrested and hauled off to the precinct stationhouse where he was questions and then released with no charges, according to a lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that police in New York are entirely untrained in how to deal with people who have special needs. However, anyone who has seen the myriad of videos showing police kill mentally ill people, does not need a lawsuit to tell them that police are terribly incompetent at dealing with those who have special needs.
"The New York City Police Department’s practices, procedures, training and rules, including those in the NYPD Patrol Guide, do not account for, instruct on, delineate, or provide guidelines for Police Officer communication and interaction with people with developmental disabilities and autism in a constitutionally adequate manner," lawyer Carmen Giordano wrote in the lawsuit.
In an interview with DNAinfo, Canales said he was “minding my own business, when I saw a cop car turn the corner. And then I saw the cop car stop their vehicle and got out."
“They said, ‘What are you doing?’ And I said I wasn't doing nothing,” he said.
He was then thrown to the ground and pinned down while an officer punched him in the face, according to the lawsuit.
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“All I see is my baby on the ground with a cop on his back,” Canales' mother, Alyson Valentine told DNAinfo. “And they wouldn’t even give me any indication of the reason why."
“I think maybe he didn’t have eye contact with them. Maybe that could have been a problem,” she added. “When he goes outside he thinks he’s normal but he’s not really normal, so he does things that people don’t really understand.”
According to the complaint, Canales, an unarmed teen boy with autism, caused one of the officers to "fear for his life" when they talked to him, which prompted their brutal response.
According to Canales' mother, her son was held in the jail for an hour and then released. As they were walking out of the stationhouse, an NYPD captain told her, “I’m sorry that this happened, but things like this happen,’" according to Valentine.
In other words.... Sorry we beat up your innocent son ma'am, but we were just doing our jobs, and we have to make it home to our families.
After being beaten by the ones he used to trust for protection, Canales regressed due to the trauma. Valentine said he stopped going outside and stayed in his room for a month, which forced her to seek psychological help.
“He stayed in his room, and that’s not like him. Even the coldest day, he always goes outside,” she said.
A mother, who once told her son to call the police if he ever needed help, now teaches him how to protect himself from police.
“I never told him how to behave if a cop stopped him,” she said. "If a cop comes to you, put your hands up, you know. Show them your hands so that way they wouldn’t feel a threat. But I never thought to tell him that because I never felt that he was capable of doing anything to get himself in a situation."
With the instance of autism on the rise in the US, it is frightening to think about all of the potential future interactions of incompetent officers and how they will treat the next special needs person they come across.