Buckeye, AZ — Following a national outcry surrounding the violent takedown of an autistic boy by Officer David Grossman, the Buckeye Police Department began conducting damage control. As the world lashed out at the department for mistreating Connor Leibel, an innocent autistic boy, in such a violent and callous manner, the parents simply asked for an apology—one that would never come. And now, because the police refused to apologize, the taxpayers are going to be held liable.
According to Courthouse News reports, Kevin and Danielle Leibel brought their federal complaint Wednesday against Buckeye, its police department and Officer David Grossman on behalf of their son, Connor, in Phoenix, seeking punitive damages on nine counts, including battery, excessive force, negligence, failure to train and illegal arrest. They also sued Police Chief Larry Hall and Lt. Charles Arlak.
As ABC 15 reported at the time, after the incident, the Leibel family through an attorney sent Buckeye Police Chief Larry Hall a letter with three requests: (1) Grossman apologize face to face (2) Grossman perform community service in the autism community (3) Buckeye institutes autism training for officers.
The letter stated at the time, “If these terms are agreed to first, any financial component of this case will be quickly resolved.”
All the department had to do was agree to those terms, an apology, teach cops not to beat up autistic kids, and have the abusive cop who did beat up an autistic kid volunteer at some local events in the autism community. They refused to do any of it.
Instead, they instituted some Orwellian Scarlett letter program in which they tagged people with disabilities so cops wouldn’t beat them up. Instead of teaching cops not to hurt disabled people, they made disabled people register with the city and wear a wristband so cops could identify them. Seriously.
Now, nearly one year after Grossman attacked the innocent autistic boy, the family has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit—because the department refused to take any action.
“So it’s with a heavy heart, and having received no meaningful response or apology from Buckeye to date, that Connor L. and his family are forced to pursue legal action…,” the claim states.
The entire disturbing interaction and subsequent assault were captured on the officer’s body camera and serve to illustrate the destructive and violent nature of both the war on drugs as well as police ignorance in dealing with those who have disabilities.
The department, who subsequently cleared the violent officer of all wrongdoing, described Grossman as a “drug recognition expert” with the department’s patrol division. As The Free Thought Project has reported, officers can attend a weekend training seminar where they learn how to escalate traffic stops under suspicion of drug use and charge more motorists with “driving under the influence of drugs,” even though many who are charged had no drugs in their system at all.
“Grossman saw Connor ‘stimming’ and claims that he mistook that behavior for illegal drug use,” the complaint states. “The Buckeye Police Department (‘BPD’) considers Grossman a ‘drug recognition expert’ despite never having trained him on behavior, like stimming, that does not constitute a sign or symptom of drug use.”
Grossman, who was wearing a body camera at the time, approached Connor and asked what he was doing. According to CN, the Leibels say the defendants have unredacted footage of the encounter, which proceeded like this:
“Upon reaching Connor, Grossman asked him what he was doing.
“Connor responded, ‘Me? Good.’
“Grossman again asked Connor what he was doing.
“Connor answered accurately: ‘I’m stimming.’
“Grossman answered: ‘What?’
“Connor again told Grossman that he was stimming, stating accurately: ‘I stim with this,’ while holding up a piece of string for Grossman to see.”
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Grossman, unaware what stimming meant, and having no training in autism, “escalate(d) the encounter,” slamming Connor against a tree, wrestling him to the ground and pinning him “with his full body weight,” to which Connor responded by saying, “I can’t breathe,” according to the complaint.
According the complaint, Connor’s caretaker, Diane Craglow, who had briefly left the boy alone, returned to the scene and asked Grossman to let the boy up, telling him he had autism.
“Ms. Craglow then asked him: ‘You don’t know anything about autism, huh?’
“Grossman replied: ‘No.’
At that moment, the officer should have removed his hands from the boy and allowed him to get to his feet. Instead, he held him down (a no, no with autistic individuals) for what must have been agonizing minutes until his backup arrived.
“He’s doing something with his hands…I don’t know what that is,” the officer stated. “You don’t have anything (drugs) on you do you,” he ignorantly asked again.
“Another officer then arrived at the scene, at which point Grossman allowed Connor to get off the ground,” according to the complaint.
Predictably, the Buckeye Police Department investigated the incident with Grossman and concluded “no use of force” occurred in dealing with the teen. But his body and the pictures of the damage to his body, tell a different tale. Bruises, scrapes, and cuts covered the autistic boy’s torso that were inflicted as a result of the fact that a poorly trained “drug recognition expert” could arguably not tell the difference between someone who is on drugs and someone who is autistic.
Connor also received a gruesome injury to his ankle which has required several surgeries to repair.
Following the incident, which took place on June 19, the Buckeye Police Department conducted their own internal investigation and concluded Leibel’s autism led to “suspicious behavior” which gave officer Grossman “reasonable suspicion” to believe Leibel was under the influence of drugs.
Just like that, a young man’s autism was declared to be a justified reason for his detainment and physical assault — in the land of the free.
Now, the taxpayers will undoubtedly be held accountable for not only the violence of one cop but for the stubborn, callous, and obstinate behavior of the entire department who is protecting him.
Watch the infuriating Body Cam footage below: