Young man with Asperger’s syndrome responds appropriately to police

Published On April 29, 2011 | By Georgia Sand | Articles

Reginald “Neli” Latson, a 19 year-old, sat in the grass outside the library and waited for it to open. Police allege that shortly after, some children purportedly were frightened and claimed there was a suspicious black male who had had a gun. A nearby school was put on lockdown, and a search ensued. Deputy Calverley then approached Latson, squeezed the front pocket of his sweatshirt and checked for a gun. No gun was found. The children questioned later also confirmed they never saw a gun. Calverly asked Latson for his name, and Latson refused. Calverly then grabbed Latson and attempted to arrest him. Latson struggled with Calverly, managed to flip him over, and caused Calverly’s head to hit the pavement. Latson hit Calverly several times and took his pepper spray.

After a 3-day trial, Latson was found guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer, among other charges and 10 1/2 years in prison was recommended (read the full story here). Latson’s defense centered around the fact that he has Asperger’s syndrome, a condition caused by an abnormality of the brain. People with Asperger’s syndrome often have difficulty interacting socially, and may be unable to respond emotionally in normal social interactions.

Latson’s case has drawn sympathy from autism and Asperger’s syndrome advocates, and raised concerns about how law enforcement deals with the developmentally or mentally disabled. Surely, this case is a sad one. It appears to be another classic case of a young, innocent black man getting screwed because he wore a hoodie and was in the wrong place at the wrong time – and on top of that, he had a condition that may have contributed to these circumstances.

However, what is ultimately most disturbing is the fact that this has become an issue of autism/Asperger’s syndrome. Instead of defending Latson’s justifiable reactions to an unjustified detention and attack, his supporters seek to excuse it by characterizing it as the product of a mental disability. Latson had done nothing wrong and was completely within his rights to sit on the grass until the library opened, but was accosted by an officer who then proceeded to question, detain and arrest him, even after confirming he did not have a gun (and even if he did have a gun – so what? It’s called the Second Amendment).

Latson was under no moral duty to be groped by this officer. He was under no moral duty to provide his name. He certainly should not have been arrested, either from a legal or moral standpoint. This was a young man who simply wanted to be left alone, and the officer would not yield to this simple desire of a denizen of the alleged land of the free. Police apologists like to say, “if only he had complied, he wouldn’t have been (insert torture, beating or murder of choice here)!” But the most appropriate way to view these interactions (if in fact we are free people) is the other way around – if the police had just minded their own damn business no one would have been hurt. Yet in this case, Latson’s supporters do not decry his treatment on the basis of police abuse and the fundamental right to simply be left alone, they decry it on the grounds that police need to better learn how to deal with people who may suffer from certain conditions and/or disabilities.

This is what it has come to in this country. If you defend yourself against abusive authority, it must be because you are mentally disabled.

Significantly, people with Asperger’s syndrome sometimes are unable to pick up on social cues, and are unable to understand more abstract expressions such as sarcasm or humor. As a result, they may tend to take words more literally than most people. Thus, it isn’t a stretch to surmise that some people with autism or Asperger’s would not understand that even in the absence of provocation, a police officer has the legal authority to violate their privacy and freedom with detention and arrest. People with autism or Asperger’s syndrome see it for what it truly is –  an aggressive stranger with a gun, coming out of nowhere to interrogate, demand, and kidnap. Perhaps people with autism and Asperger’s are the only people left in this country who rightly fail to see how a uniform and a title justifies initiation of aggression and kidnapping.

Yet general consensus among those sympathetic to Latson is not that police aggression has long exceeded acceptable bounds, but that Officer Calverly was also a victim in this, and that police need to be better trained for such situations in the future. Perhaps Latson did injure Officer Calverly more than he deserved. However, if one is going to arbitrarily initiate violence on innocent people, he should be prepared to suffer the reasonable consequences that may follow when the target of his violence tries to defend himself.

Calverly had no business disturbing a peaceful boy waiting outside a library. He negligently acted on reports of a man with a gun which were never substantiated. Even after he confirmed Latson did not have a gun, Calverly escalated the situation by demanding Latson identify himself. When Latson refused to do so, Calverly again escalated the situation by initiating violence and attempting to arrest him. If Calverly were any other ordinary person, Latson would be legally justified in attempting to walk away from a nosy busybody. If Calverly were any other ordinary person, Latson would be justified in fighting against Calverly’s attempt to physically restrain him and jail him for doing nothing wrong.

Latson’s only “mistake” was that he failed to understand the abstract idea that a fancy government title and a uniform legally creates a different standard for police. Police often do what Calverly did, on a regular basis, but most people are cognitive of social norms and perceive that a gun and a badge grant legal rights which demand submission, and do not defend themselves against unwarranted police violence either out of misguided deference, or justifiable fear.

Even in the face of this event, people continue to argue police merely need to be better trained. This perspective, while not limited to such supporters, is delusional. Police love violence. They use it daily in the course of their employment. If they didn’t love violence, they wouldn’t have signed up for the job. To think some training would make them more sympathetic or sensitive to their victim’s particular conditions is just stupid.

*After corresponding with Neli’s mother, Lisa Alexander, we have learned that Neli was in solitary confinement for 8 months for no apparent reason. They finally moved him to the general population in January after many requests by his mother.

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About The Author

Georgia (George) Sand received her B.A. from UCLA and her J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law. She enjoys beer, jogging, the beach and music in her spare time.
  • http://anarchyinabottle.blogspot.com/ Danny (A)

    Latson is a hero! I like this kids style. He certainly knows how to take care of himself. I really hope he doesn’t get in trouble for something as stupid as this. It would be nice for a story to have a happy ending for once. Either way, great article.

  • Aaron

    Well said, Jenn. This is clearly a case of self-defense — why do people have so much trouble seeing that? Perhaps he shouldn’t have hit the officer further once he had flipped him over, but even that is debatable.

    With that said, I think that police DO need to be educated more. So does the entire justice system. So do the general public. Everyone needs to understand that the behavior Calverly exhibited was tyrannical, and that the ONLY way to defend against tyrants is through violence.

  • Clint

    I miss the old articles with easy to find links to the actual news stories

  • Jenn

    @Clint – Next time I will try to provide more links. Here, I felt only one link was sufficient. The Washington Post link I provided was a very detailed account of this story, which described the whole spectrum of events, including the encounter between Latson and Calverly, the trial, the recommended sentencing, the implications of police officers in dealing with people with certain conditions, and the autism/Asperger community’s response. I felt this was sufficient, but I do understand the need to provide more sources.

  • Icylda Pounila

    Good piece Jenn,thank you!!!!!

  • Ogre

    This story is just another that points out so accurately that the police are completely and totally above the law. It used to be said, “Who will police the police?” But I think a much more accurate phrase today could be, “Who will protect us from the police?” And the answer is clear: no one.

    The justice system will not protect us. In the minds of the justice system, police can do no wrong. The judges will not protect us. In the minds of the judge, the word of a police officer is gold. And clearly even now the jury will not protect us. The jury today follows the instruction of the judge. There is no protection from the police.

    So what’s the solution? Clearly not violence, as the police will just call more police and use more violence. The only solution I can see is shunning. When you see police, go the other way. Do not speak to them under any circumstances. Avoid them at all costs. If you have “friends” who are police officers, don’t see them any more. Don’t support police benevolent societies. Don’t help the police when they ask for help. As you would if you saw a gang of armed thugs, teach your children to avoid them at all costs. Block 911 on your telephone. Don’t ever call police for help. It may not do any good in the short term, as the police will continue to do whatever they want. But that’s what they’re doing now. Perhaps if enough people would just refuse to have any interactions with the police, some of them might actually realize what they’re doing and see a need to change. I don’t really believe that will happen, but avoiding and refusing to deal with them at all costs seems to be the path that will result in the most freedom.

  • buni

    I don’t have time to go back and see if anyone has said this already or not, but he gave them a reason to be suspicious when he refused his name and….he most likely was not wearing a medical bracelet. Anyone with a problem such as this should wear one.
    The officer did what he thought was the right thing to do to make sure the public was safe. What if this man had done something prior and he had a warrant or something? then what..the cop would be appreciated for doing a good job.

  • Giovanni

    Jenn,
    Was the arrest for not identifying oneself a crime in this jurisdiction? Was that what Latson was initially charged with? or was there some underlying probable cause?
    If there was no underlying probable cause and if failure to identify oneself is not a crime in this jurisdiction…then the arrest would appear to be illegal. I believe an illegal arrest can be resisted even if it results in the death of the officer according to certain conditions stipulated in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in “John Bad Elk v United States” in the year 1900 or 1905. Of course the trick is to make sure that the arrest is illegal and given that it is illegal….be able to prove its illegality with multiple witnesses or telemetry (video) or both. Any other details on the initial charge?
    Best Regards.

  • Socialist Sleepover

    As one who is “diagnosed” with Asperger’s (I honestly this is a mistake, given that a 13 year old who was abused by his parents is going to have some socially regressive tendencies, but whatever), I for one am appalled that not only would the Autism/Asperger’s Community try and rationalize this young man’s behavior as “he just didn’t understand!” when faced with some overbearing honkey with a god complex, but that they would not stand up and say “this shit cannot stand for ANYONE in our community”.

    Buni- Your ad hoc rationalizations for the cops actions are deplorable. What is more, I’d be damned if I had to wear a bracelet around that stigmatized me from everyone else. Maybe we should have AIDS patients wear a patch that says “AIDS” on it, right? What is more, your underhanded racism is coming through: the kid was harassed for no other reason than he was black, sitting on a lawn at the library. If it had been a white kid, no one would have said a goddamn thing.

  • Jessica

    Even if police were better trained to deal with the “mentally disabled”, sometimes you cannot tell if someone has a handicap. It’s not like autistic/aspberger people walk around with neon signs posted on their heads to announce they have these issues.

  • Jenn

    @Buni – refusal to give your name, alone, is not reason for further police investigation, and is not probable cause a crime has been committed.

    Why is it up to the innocent person to wear a bracelet? Shouldn’t it be up to the security professional to do the right thing and leave a non-dangerous person alone?

  • Anony

    I’ve been following this case from the beginning. And I have to give HUGE kudos the the writer of this article. I live in that county and I’ve been to the court house getting public record documents on this case (including the officer’s testimony). I’ve sat in on many of the hearings.

    Aside from a few factual discrpenacies, I have to say that this article is by and far the BEST written out there. Everyone wants to focus on his disability. But the facts remain.

    1) He was profiled sitting under a library tree
    2) He was searched without incident and no weapon was found. This young man complied.
    3) The officer knew there was a swat team out looking for this alleged black armed gunman, yet he never alerted anyone until after the altercation he started.
    4) The police action was NEVER called into question what so ever
    5) Now this young man’s life is ruined because he was bullied by someone who is supposed to protect and serve.

    You should get a Pulitzer Prize for writing this piece.

  • Jenn

    @Anony – thank you for your readership (but you flatter me too much!) It’s great to get input from someone who was at many of the hearings. I really find this case so horrendous. I have just learned that in addition, Neli has spent 8 months in solitary confinement.

  • Lily

    Great article! I know this story well, and I fully support Reginald “Neli” Latson. The facts that were outlined by Anony should have been all that was needed to exonerate this young man. But not in Stafford County. The level of police and judicial corruption in this county is outrageous.

  • Guy Fawkes

    “we have learned that Neli was in solitary confinement for 8 months for no apparent reason.”
    I think everyone here knows what the reason was. To punish him for putting a beat down on a cop.

  • Guy Fawkes

    I read the post article and came across this.
    “Last week, prosecutors tried Latson on a breaking-and-entering charge related to an incident in 2009. In that case, prosecutors said, Latson rang the doorbell at a teenager’s home. When the teen opened the door, Latson hit him and followed him inside. Latson pleaded guilty to assault last year. On Thursday, he was found guilty of breaking and entering. ”
    It still doesn’t justify the cops treatment, as the officer did not know who he was, that cop was going on a typical fishing expedition;get someones ID then run it to see if any warrants come up. I will say this as a side comment, while wearing a badge and uniform should not grant a license to commit assault, neither should having Asperger’s or any other syndrome.

  • Pro Bono

    I, too have been following this case for quite awhile and have been doing advocacy in mental health in Virginia for 25 years. First of all, no one should assume that the article in the WaPo told the whole story or anywhere near the truth of what happened. To hear Neli’s side go to http://www.avoiceforneli.com and check out his video. Also, there are many of us on fb who are clear that the main reason this happened at all was because of racial profiling. After hearing the officer’s testimony at trial, I felt Neli remained quite calm under the duress of the initial stop and pat down. He only resisted under much provocation. Then I don’t think that what he did was due to Asperger’s. I think many non-disabled kids and adults might have reacted that way. Basically, it looked to me like the officer bullied Neli into reacting. And even after resisting, the officer’s injuries couldn’t be shown beyond a reasonable doubt to be intentional on Neli’s part. It is possible that his disability was one of many factors that contributed to his reactions. On the other hand, more police training might have helped the situation but it would take racial, cultural, and disability-related training to make a big difference and a mentality that commands and brute force are not called for in every arrest. It seemed clear to me also, that the officer must not have followed protocol by approaching Neli as he did if he indeed thought Neli was armed and dangerous. Unfortunately, though many police departments teach the use of brute force believing that a show of force prevents more violence. The Supreme Court allows this type of stop under Terry and laws which exist in many jurisdictions DO make it illegal to refuse to give your name to a police officer after a Terry stop. Additionally, after V Tech and now Tuscan, police may react to someone who seems a little different or doesn’t comply to immediate commands as a threat that should be terminated.

  • Lance

    @Buni,

    Making everyone with a medical condition wear a bracelet won’t stop officers from being violent.
    And refusing to identify yourself for sitting on the grass in front of a library is certainly within your right.
    Why would you identify yourself to an officer anyways if you are doing nothing wrong and you know it?

    Cops have a huge ego, and the sympathetic public gives them that huge and undeserved ego. I hate our police force, I’ve only dealt with a few various officers that were respectable and calm in their dealing with myself and others, but the majority of them are just a bunch of violent overzealous tools who think whatever they do it’ll save the day and make them amazing people for it.
    It’s pretty disgusting.

  • Anony

    @ Guy Fawker…here is my stance. I am a truth seeker. Most Americans are asleep at the wheel and are basically walking like zombies through life. Many people believe in everything they see on the news. The bottom line here is, if you wanted to know the REAL truth, you would look for it.

    Please answer this question for me? How exactly does one get charged with burglary AFTER they have been incarcerated for an entire month? When exactly did this “burglary” take place? How does that happen? While you’re out here throwing stones, please get your facts together.

    If you think the judicial system is fair, then please tell why a white woman in Stafford County killed someone on her second DUI and got 8 months? http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2011/022011/02232011/609076

    Maybe you’ve heard of the McMissile case where in a road road incident resulted in a black woman throwing a cup of ice at another car. Was she wrong, yes! But she got TWO YEARS in jail while her husband, a Marine, was in Iraq fighting for people like you. Just Google McMissile and you will find the story. I’m not doing your homework for you.

    Of course, if you were a truth seeker, you wouldn’t have posted that garbage you did. Common sense and deductive reasoning fails so many in our society. A bunch of spoon fed drones drinking the kool-aid. I support this family because my family too were victims of Stafford County, although not to this extent.

    It doesn’t matter what pill you take, the red or the blue, pretty soon we WILL be in a police state and will be ALL of us against them. If you refuse to comply, then you will be carted off to a FEMA camp. Get your heads together please.

  • Guy Fawkes

    @Anony

    Your issue is with the police/courts and the newspaper article, not with me. Lets say hypothetically the assault on the teen charge was bogus. If so, that teen should be jailed for lying, if the cops and prosecutors knew he lied and brought up charges anyway then they should be charged too. My point, however, still stands, and that is just because someone has “X” syndrome, it should not be a cart blanch to commit assault anymore than a badge and uniform should be. I already agreed that in Latson’s encounter with the cop, the officer should not have tried to place him under arrest just for failure to give his name. I would apply that to ANYONE, not just a person with Asperger’s syndrome.
    “If you think the judicial system is fair, then please tell why a white woman in Stafford County killed someone on her second DUI and got 8 months?”
    I never claimed the justice system is fair. To you, being white is like a magic get out of jail free card. Dude you are full of shit if you really believe that. You want a guess? Everyone wants to blame bad court decisions on race. While there is some racism, MONEY is a MUCH bigger factor in the U.S. court system. O.J. walked on a double homicide, if your “truth seeking” concludes some poor white redneck with a court appointed defense lawyer would have walked from those same double homicide charges with DNA evidence you are delusional. Even before I read the link I suspected that woman who committed the DUI had money, this confirmed it – “She was driving a new Mercedes, while Benezra was alone in a Chrysler Sebring.” So my answer to your question isn’t the “she was white and he was black” you were attempting to prod out of me, it’s “she had money”. That’s how the U.S. court system works these days, if you have money you can get an expensive lawyer to buy yourself out of trouble, maybe even bribe the judge if he is amenable, if you’re poor(white, Black, Asian, Hispanic…), do not stop, go directly to jail. Hey, I was wrong, looks like the cops cut this guy slack cause he was white – http://www.copblock.org/2924/what-420-means/ Oh, that’s right, he died under a hail of bullets. I guess you could say THAT cop wasn’t racist!

  • Guy Fawkes

    Correction – Sargent was killed by a single shot, not that it makes it any better or changes my point.

  • Anony

    @ Fawker, I agree with you regarding people with money do get away with murder. It’s not always about black and white. In the case being discussed in the article, I believe it is CLEAR that it was about race.

    Having a disorder is not a get out of jail free card. Did you read the article? I’m sure you did, but you CHOOSE not to see the facts.

    You’re now talking about an assault. The question I posed to you was regarding the BURGLARY you brought up. Obviously you are biased.

  • http://TerminalSix.wordpress.org LTD.Edition

    I agree fully with @Danny (A). Latson is a hero for all those oppressed by police forces around the globe. I sure hope he get’s a re-trial in the near future.

  • http://mrda.wordpress.com MRDA

    “This is what it has come to in this country. If you defend yourself against abusive authority, it must be because you are mentally disabled.”

    This serves as a superb, accurate, if unwitting, indictment of the abject slavishness of regular folk.

  • http://mrda.wordpress.com MRDA

    “This is what it has come to in this country. If you defend yourself against abusive authority, it must be because you are mentally disabled.”

    This serves as a superb and accurate–if unwitting–indictment of the abject slavishness characteristic of regular, “well-adjusted” folk.

  • Guy Fawkes

    @Anon,

    I did address the burglary charge, you were not paying attention.
    I’ll repeat what I said AGAIN here – “Lets say hypothetically the assault on the teen charge was bogus. If so, that teen should be jailed for lying, if the cops and prosecutors knew he lied and brought up charges anyway then they should be charged too.”
    That IS my response, if people were lying in that case they need to be prosecuted for doing so. I’m NOT saying that is the case here, it is not so in the cop assault case and possibly not true in the teen assault/burglary case
    I am NOT biased, I agreed with the article that Latson should have been left alone by the cop and was defending himself against an unwarranted assault. The burglary charge, though potentially phoney, got me thinking that in assault cases some people DO try to get off because they have some syndrome or other. So here is the deal. I don’t WANT Latson in a cage for years on end, when he was essentially assaulted for doing nothing, but hypothetically speaking, if someone(NOT Latson) with a syndrome is violent(And there was a comment from some women with bruises from her son punching her) they need to be kept away from the general public.

  • Belisarius

    @Anony

    Like yourself and Charlie Sheen I too am a truth seeker. I have to say though charges get changed or added all the time based on evidence uncovered in the course of an investigation. It doesn’t mean there’s a railroading or grand conspiracy going on. They claim the burglary occurred in 2009 so they aren’t saying he robbed someone when he was in jail.

    Is it true or a bogus charge? Who knows, that will play out in court in front of a jury of his peers.

    Fawkes is correct about autism not being an excuse for getting violent with people. If autistic kids who are violent received a severe beating every time they tried to assault someone they would modify their behavior. It seems in our civilized society we have forgotten how to deal with raw aggression.

  • Kevin

    Actually, the cop had a reason to search him. It’s called a Stop and Frisk (see court case Terry v. Ohio) so since the children reported he had a gun, that is a completely legal search because it was just for a weapon. Once the man refused to give his name, despite not having a weapon, it is legal cause to detain him because he is acting suspiciously by not cooperating with the law by not providing his name or reason for being there. Also, there is no way that the police officer can know that the man has Asperberger’s so how is he supposed to know the man may not react normally.

    This is a terrible case but honestly no one is in the wrong here, the police was doing everything legally and the mental illness should have at least mitigated the decision if not completely got him off. Unfortunately, this is another example of people just assuming the cops are corrupt and racist and the fact that the man was mentally handicapped makes it seem even worse.

  • Jenn

    @kevin ~ this was not a post about whether the law was followed. It’s a post about how the law is wrong and justice system is problematic. Police have the legal right to do many things, but that doesn’t make it right.

  • Laura James

    The article was mon biased all the way down to the paragraph, “…Police love violence or they wouldn’t accept the job…” – This is a generalized broad stroke with no substantial evidence to support such a claim.

  • Jenn

    @Laura – they stop people, detain people, and arrest people either with force or through threat of force. Most of their detentions, arrests and tickets are for non-violent crimes – thus, they are constantly responding to non-violence with violent action. They kick down doors and pepper spray people for non-violent crimes. Their jobs are filled constant violence. Anyone who signs up to be a cop and says “Gee! I didn’t know I’d have to use force or violence on the job!” is either lying or stupid.

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  • Rick

    The police had every right to ask for identification. It is not an infringement on one’s rights to be asked these questions. Especially after allegations that a man, presumably resembling his appearance, was wielding a firearm was in the area. You can’t see or smell Autism so how could the LEO possibly know that this person was not being non-compliant and resisting his investigation. If this man was so unfamiliar with societal norms that he assaulted a police officer for attempting to put him into custody (not even necessarily under arrest), then maybe he needs to be medicated or have a guardian with him to prevent these situations. The police should have the ability to detain an individual when they feel threatened and resistance to this warrants legal action.

  • Jenn

    The police had every right to ask, but did he have any right to resort to senseless violence when Mr. Latson refused to give it to him? He had already confirmed Latson had no gun at this point. Even if Latson did have a gun – so what? The right to refuse to answer questioning by police is well-established by Supreme Court law (although in this case, I will concede Virginia may have a stop and identify statute).

    Police feel “threatened” all the time. This is what causes them to shoot small dogs, taser elderly grandmothers and cancer patients, taser children, shoot unarmed people and shoot kittens. I don’t think the standard of “threatened” for a police officer is reasonable one we should rely on for purposes of assessing who should be detained. If we allowed police to arrest people willy nilly every time they felt threatened, I guarantee you half the population would be in jail right now. At any rate, maybe people who think people should be arrested for not giving up their name, even when they have committed no crime, should seek mental evaluation or be medicated.

  • Belisarius

    @Jenn

    I agree with you that police frequently overstep their bounds when it comes to detaining people and using non lethal weapons, however in this situation I don’t think that’s the case. The officer was under the impression from the man with a gun report that this kid might have committed a violent crime or was attempting to, and I don’t find it unreasonable to try and detain him when he proves totally uncooperative.

    Imagine the outrage from the public if it was found out that he had murdered someone, thrown the gun away and was just let go by an officer who intercepted him. There would be endless clamoring for this incompetent officer’s badge from the media.

    I also have contact with several autistic/asperger children on a regular basis and I have to say in general they aren’t violent. Problems start to arise when the parents excuse any kind of bad behavior by the child as “being autistic/asperger and can’t help it” and refuse to enforce any kind of discipline. Having asperger’s is no more a valid excuse for assaulting a police officer then having a cold is. Unfortunately it seems in this case the justice system is stuck with being the disciplinarian the parents never were.

  • Timothy

    I have Asperger’s, and have had incidents with the police in the recent past – mostly for the innocent act of walking on public sidewalks at night. I walk to the 24-hour wal-mart sometimes, often when I can’t sleep, and have been stopped randomly by cops about 1/2 the time (this amounts to a dozen times in the past year…). The interaction between law enforcement and Asperger’s is an important one – the thing that is likely to get us into trouble is our tendency to either be overly trusting, or extremely distrusting of authority figures. We can’t read them well, or at all. I have the former problem, I am overly trusting, because I cannot read officers’ intentions and because they tend to use calm passive and aggressive vocal tones as tactics trying to get innocent people to unknowingly forfeit rights and incriminate themselves. I was constantly being talked into being questioned, frisked, searched, and detained. The first 2 times I let it go. I had figured maybe this happens to everyone in the area, but by asking many neighbors I ascertained that it generally does not (they all think I’m odd, to boot). I don’t carry weapons, don’t do drugs, don’t even drink. But still these officers stop me, and I just have to assume it’s because of some “oddness” I’m giving off merely for existing in their line of sight. Basically, I don’t go outside after dark anymore because of this. My parents and friends became worried about me. Not because of crime or criminals, mind you, but because of law enforcement presence. So, because I cannot trust myself to read officers’ intentions in order to respond/behave in my own best interests, or trust the officers to have any respect for private citizens’ rights, I have a curfew. And I despise this reality, but have to agree it’s in my own best interests at this point. I’m going to get into some trouble, which I simply do not need. There is something really messed-up with America these days.

  • Timothy

    I should add that the experience of being stopped by the police itself is generally edgy, by and large. I’m cautious, trusting, cooperative, but at the same time I feel quite threatened, and always leave the event feeling scared and overly nervous, in kind of a startled way. So, it’s just not pleasant. I wish I knew what to do about it. Talking to the lieutenant got me nowhere

  • Jenn

    @Belisarius – the fact that someone COULD be dangerous is not justification for what happened here. Otherwise, we should imprison all men because they have penises and could be rapists. Should we imagine the outrage from the public if police let any man go free and he ended up being a rapist? How far does this logic of “maybe if” or “could be” extend? The easier way to assess this is by looking at who became violent first. Clearly it was the officer. End of story. People should be free to hang out on the grass. They should be free to ignore police. They should be free to refuse to answer questions. Even the Supreme Court, as pro-police as they are, have conceded that people have a right to refuse to answer questions. Looking black and having people tell lies about you is not a crime, and should not be justification for arrest.

  • Luther Blissette

    The headline should be:

    A decade in jail for the only America teenager who still goes to libraries.

  • Rick

    @Jenn

    You keep saying that the officer was “arresting” him when the child assaulted the officer. What you are failing to realize is that there is a distinct difference between being placed in handcuffs and being placed under arrest. To be placed under arrest, you must have criminal charges against you and the officer is going to take you to jail. When an officer detains an individual, he is securing a scenario in which he feels threatened. The handcuffs can be undone, they are just a precautionary process to make sure that neither party gets hurt in any physical altercation. You throw around anecdotal accounts of police being kitten killers to sensationalize a weak argument. I went to USD…I know how easy it was to BS papers, but you are presenting these views to the public and it is irresponsible to ignore these facts. Maybe your writing should focus on the judicial system and the fact that the case was not thrown out due to his condition. Therein lies the real problem in this scenario. I hope that if you are even a victim of a physical crime, that you will be comfortable calling a police officer, because in the end…they are there to help

  • Jenn

    It is your speculation entirely that the officer was only trying to handcuff him. You have no facts upon which to base this belief. I would never purposely distort facts. I am pretty sure I was merely quoting facts as reported by the washington post. I have to check later but I am pretty sure”arrest” was the language used by the washington post. at any rate it is irrelevant. If he did nothing wrong there was no reason to detain him briefly or arrest him. are you for detaining every man on the street since he could be a rapist? If not then you should not be detaining innocent black kids because they have a gun.

  • Jenn

    I just checked. Based on the washington post article, calverly’s own testimony says he tried to bend latson over and said he was under arrest. Maybe you learned to bullshit at usd. I did not.

  • Rick

    Authorities gave this account: About 20 minutes into the search, Deputy Thomas Calverley, the resource officer at a nearby high school, saw Latson and noticed that he matched the description of the suspicious man. Asked for identification, the teenager began “to attack and assault the deputy for no apparent reason.” Latson struck the deputy several times. The officer unloaded pepper spray on the teen, who wrestled the container away and sprayed the officer. Latson then ran. Other officers found Latson in the nearby woods and the deputy on the ground with a head laceration, cuts and a broken ankle that would require surgery. –from Washington Post

    And yes, I did read the victim’s account as well. I fail to see where the police officer acted incorrectly. If you could provide an alternative the officer could have taken when responding to a scene where a man, fitting Latson’s description, is presumably carrying a firearm, maybe you could revolutionize police work and eliminate all violence from the streets.

  • Jenn

    @Rick – the part where the kid did nothing wrong and was detained is what the police did wrong. I’m not going to argue that point with you because we will never agree. You believe police should be able to detain and arrest people for looking suspicious. I do not.

    The point I would like to make with you is that I engaged in no distortion of fact. This is what the Washington Post says –

    “”Hey, what’s up, man?” Calverley said, according to his testimony.

    The deputy approached. He squeezed the front pocket area of Latson’s sweat shirt and lifted it to check for a gun. There was none. According to authorities, no gun was found, and the children, when questioned later, said they never saw one.

    Calverley said he asked the teenager his name several times and, after the teen refused to give it, he grabbed Latson, told him that he was under arrest and bent him over the hood of a car. That’s when the two started wrestling and fell to the ground.”

    So yes, this was an arrest, not merely “being placed in handcuffs” for “securing the area” as you claimed.

  • Rick

    Well this a direct quote from you: “This is what causes them to shoot small dogs, taser elderly grandmothers and cancer patients, taser children, shoot unarmed people and shoot kittens.” < These are sensationalized and distorted facts to drive a weak point…-10pts

    How, may I ask, can anyone ever be arrested for a warrant if they do not have to supply a name to the police. It would be impossible to conduct investigations for any crime if you are not required to divulge a name. When this child refused, he was guilty of obstruction and would have been arrested as such, cited and released. The part where he physically resisted and broke the ankle of the police officer is where the child, autistic or not, crossed the line. Being bent over the hood of a car is not a very harmful maneuver, especially in the scenario where the man may have potentially had a gun. Just because the officer squeezed his pocket, does not mean that he could be 100% sure that the situation was safe. For example, how many firearms does a police officer carry? Most may say: just the one on their hip, but anecdotal accounts point to many officers carrying 2 or 3 firearms, expertly concealed in the event that their primary weapon is taken from them or fails. This shows that a weapon can easily be concealed from a quick pat down, and being placed in handcuffs could be the only way to make certain that he could not access his gun, if he indeed have one.

    "According to authorities, no gun was found, and the children, when questioned later, said they never saw one." < it's nice that 'when questioned later', there was no gun found, but at the time it was still uncertain. I hope that if the child did have a gun and, God forbid, killed an officer, that you would write a story praising that officer for giving his life protection you.

  • Rick

    “It shall be unlawful for any person at a public place or place open to the public to refuse to identify himself by name and address at the request of a uniformed police officer or of a properly identified police officer not in uniform, if the surrounding circumstances are such as to indicate to a reasonable man that the public safety requires such identification.” Failure to identify is considered a misdemeanor. < Had to do some fact checking…this is Virginia law by the way

  • Jenn

    @Rick – ah, I see what you are referring to. Those are not sensationalized. I should not have assumed readers consistently follow cop block. For news stories of those occurrences, please see the links below –

    Tasering granny –
    http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/06/24/28330.htm

    Shooting kitten –
    http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/05/29/505974/trooper-kills-a-kitten-and-loses.html#ixzz0qKbG2JD9

    Shooting unarmed person -
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/05/oscar-grant-iii-fatally-s_n_155462.html

    Shooting another unarmed person –
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadou_Diallo_shooting

    Another murder –
    http://www.copblock.org/1451/police-officer-murders-half-deaf-hobbling-native-american-man/

    Tasering cancer patient -
    http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/tased-house-california-man-sues-police-disturbing-visit/story?id=11531608

    Tasering children –
    http://newsone.com/nation/casey-gane-mccalla/police-taser-10-year-old-girl-in-arkansas/

    +10 points for me, – 1,000 points for the institution of police.

    I never said anything about Virginia State law. I am aware of the stop and identify statute. I don’t care. Notice my article talks about moral duties and moral responsibilities. I said nothing about whether anyone obeyed the law. I don’t care. My point is he should not have been arrested. If legally the officer was permitted to arrest him per the stop and identify statute, then the law should be changed.Stop and identify statutes are offensive to liberty. Everyone should have the right to say “fuck off” to police when stopped.

    It looks like you are going on about a bunch of “what ifs.” What if he was a murderer and they let him go. What if he didn’t give his name and they didn’t catch him. How could you get a criminal or execute a warrant if he didn’t give his name. Really, these are all irrelevant. The point is he was innocent and did nothing wrong. End of story. Based on your logic, we should stop and identify all men because they could all be rapists, unless they were castrated. What if that man walking down the street is a rapist? He is a man after all, and 99% of rapes are committed by men. What if the officer didn’t identify him and he later raped somebody? Why not throw all men in jail, regardless of innocence? Then we would effectively eliminate all rape.

    The only difference here is the VA courts made a law saying people have to stop and identify themselves to further the interests of law enforcements, and not a law saying all men should be arrested to further the interests of law enforcement. So if there in fact was a law saying all men must immediately be incarcerated, in the interests of justice, law enforcement, and safety, would you argue that a man who resisted this kind of arrest was wrong to do so?

  • Jenn
  • Damon Davenport

    It has always been against the law to be Black in America.

  • Just sayin

    First of all, this is a lose-lose situation. But I think if we’re going to call for better educational training for police , it is ignorant to generalize pOlice as a whole. I actually don’t like police too much myself but being a member of a minority hat is cmmonly stereotyped (lesbian, and proudly so) I find it moronic to remain more social awareness while stereotyping the organization Or group the person of interest is a member of. Practice what you preach. That’s all.

  • George Sand

    @ Just Sayin – so is it “stereotyping” to say that lesbians are homosexuals? Or that lesbians like women? I am not stereotyping. I merely gave a description of what police jobs entail, and how the laws protect them. It is not a “stereotype” to say that different laws apply to police. They are protected by civil immunity, and resisting arrest laws make it such that unjust arrests are essentially legal. These are not stereotypes. They are facts. Your criticism would be much like saying that it is a “stereotype” to say all child molesters molest children. I have described what the police do BY DEFINITION. BY LAW. This is not a stereotype. It is what it is. That is all.

  • http://abnormaldiversity.blogspot.com Ettina

    Like it or not, in order for the police to do their job, they must have special powers. For example, the right to insist that a person give their name. Now, obviously they can’t do anything they like, but I don’t see anything wrong with demanding someone’s name. (I’d need to know more about exactly what happened to decide if they used undue force, and I’m pretty sure they shouldn’t have been called in the first place.)

    I have a form of autism that means if police made the wrong move around me, I might compulsively lash out. I’m terrified of this happening, and I’ve been trying to figure out ways to protect myself (eg carrying a card I could give them explaining my condition). I also think police need to be better trained, for example they should get psychiatric training so they know how to defuse a tense situation with a mentally disabled person (or someone who is high on drugs).

    And I suspect racial profiling was involved, almost certainly in whoever called the police and likely in the police themselves. But that does not mean the young man here was behaving appropriately. You should give the police your name, if asked, and should not physically attack the police. Here’s where I think Asperger Syndrome is relevant, because he may not have known what he was supposed to do, and may have panicked when he was touched due to tactile defensiveness. If he did not have AS, however, it would be clear that he’s guilty of assaulting a police officer.

  • George Sand

    First of all, you should NOT have to identify yourself to the police, especially if you’re not doing anything wrong. If you haven’t harmed anyone, it’s none of the police’s business who you are or what you do. Most states have upheld that a person does not have to randomly show identification to police.

    Second of all, it’s either assault, or it’s not. Since when does a disease excuse assault? You may want to make excuses for your behavior, but really, when it comes to assault, it either is or it isn’t. Your behavior may be explained by your disease, but it would not justify it, excuse it, nor should it relieve you of responsibility. If you have a seizure and hit someone, you didn’t intend to, because basically you were unconscious – so it’s not assault. But if you hit someone just because you have poor impulse control (whether it be because of Autism or something else), then there was intent, and it was assault. Poor impulse control is not an excuse, no matter what you want to call it, or where it stems from – Autism, Aspergers’, violence, lack of self-control – it doesn’t matter. If you intended to do it, it was assault. If someone somehow had a neurological disorder that made it hard to control child-molesting impulses, would you say that they should not be held accountable for child molestation because it is a “disease” or “disorder”?

    Thus, Aspergers and Autism are really irrelevant here, in my mind. It wasn’t assault here because an innocent person has a right to fight back against a police officer who is initiating violence. Neli is innocent because he did nothing wrong, regardless of any consideration about Aspberger’s.

  • George Sand

    @ Ettina – and as to special powers, why should they have special powers? If they are truly stopping violent criminals, they can do so without any special powers at all. Security guards do it for home security or stores all the time without special powers. Body guards defend people against violence perfectly fine without special powers.

    And if police do have special powers, which they do, which permit them to commit various crimes without legal recourse due to civil immunities of varying degrees, and people are murdered, tortured, beaten, or otherwise jailed, then what? Too bad for those people? Who are you to make that decision for other people? You have NO right to say police should get to fuck innocent people in the ass and get away with it just because that’s what you like, and what you perceive to be the proper role of police.

  • Kishandra R

    Of course it was suspicious. A black guy lurking outside a library is enough probable cause. He sure ain’t there to read books, that’s for sure. It is same as if a Muslim is lurking outside a Jewish temple. He ain’t there to pray, that’s for sure.

    In Brooklyn, main public library is on corner of Martin Lufa King and Malcolm X Blvd next to Al Sharpton’s office. You know that’s a black area. Library is huge. From 300 people inside, only 2 are black: the janitor and the security guard.

    As Chris Rock said “If you want to keep your money safe, put it in your books, because n****s don’t read.”

    If that convict don’t like people much and go crazy attacking the population in public, why they take him out of solitary and put in general population?

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  • AJ

    i had a similar experience in college where the secerity guards told me they would give me three warnings or they would call the sheriff on me. but they gave me only two warnings all i was doing was trying to prevent a meltdown by being alone under the stairs in the dark. When they showed up they didnt understand and that was after i passed out.

  • George Sand

    Hi AJ – I’m sorry to hear that happened to you. I hope you weren’t hurt too badly. :( If you like, you can submit your story as a post to share with others.

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  • Muoi Niesporek

    You arabs lost the wars you savages started so get bent, to the victors go the spoils.

  • Jerel Edmonds

    Picking up on this story late, happened in 2010 and I’m writing this in 2014. I agree that training would do nothing to prevent a situation like this. The reality is that Latson was black before anything else. His autism spectrum condition (which the officer would not be able to see) only adds to the situation. That cop was not in his appropriate bounds to put his hands on Latson after determining he had no weapon. This happens regardless of reason. One is better off trying to prepare their kid for the world, instead of the world for their kid.