Family of teen with autism wants justice after Buckeye officer detained him

Connor Leibel gave his account of an encounter with a Buckeye police officer.

Danielle Leibel has asked the Buckeye Police Department for an apology. Why? In her eyes one of their officers used “unnecessary force” when he confronted her 14-year-old son.

Connor Leibel has autism. One day back in July, he was at a community park in the Verrado community of Buckeye. That’s when an officer drove by and thought Connor was “inhaling or sniffing” something. The officer pulled around and got out his car.

When the officer approached Connor, he asked, “What he was doing?” The 14-year old replied, “I’m stimming.”

RELATED: Body cam video shows Buckeye officer take down teen with autism

Unfortunately, the officer didn’t know what that is. Stimming is a repetitive motion often utilized by people with autism. In Connor’s case, he flicks a piece of string fast.

The officer eventually asked Connor if he had any identification on him and when Connor said "no" and started to walk away the officer grabbed his arm and placed it behind his back. The officer's body camera captured the entire encounter and you can hear Connor saying “I’m OK, I’m OK” to calm him down.

The two then fell to the ground and you can hear the officer telling Connor “relax and don’t move.” Within 30 to 45 seconds, Connor’s caretaker that day ran over and informed the officer Connor has autism.

“Once the officer is informed he has autism, he does not get off him,” said Danielle Leibel.

Video shows the officer kept Connor on the ground for about two more minutes before another officer arrives. The police department did investigate and concluded the officer was justified in his actions.

“I cry every time I see it,” said Danielle Leibel.

The family provided pictures to 12 News that show scrapes and a large rash on Connor’s back. They also say he has been somewhat traumatized by the ordeal. During our interview with Danielle Leibel, Connor walked into the room.

“He tackled me and pushed me into a tree. He would not stop,” Connor said.

Danielle Leibel says she has always been encouraged to take Connor places and let him be somewhat independent. In this case, it appears Connor was only alone in the park for 10 to 15 minutes.

“My son was following his commands, answering his questions. There was no need to make a split-second decision,” said Danielle Leibel.

The family has vowed to keep pushing for police officer training and firmly believes an apology is warranted.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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