Only two days before they murdered an autistic man who continued to drive away from them, the Hays, KS police department missed the First Response Autism Training Seminar. They were not the only emergency response crew from the area invited and they were not alone in their absence.
Team Josiah 2K22 Foundation invited Hays Police Department and other first responders to a First Response Autism Training Seminar.
Just 2-days prior to shooting 36-year-old special needs man Joey Weber, Hays police were invited to a seminar on autism.
Team Josiah 2K22 Foundation was started to help educate communities, first responders, and parents on how to handle those with special needs.
As of now, Hays police and Ellis County have yet to release any information about the shooting.
Still, no answers in the Hays, Kansas police shooting of 36-year-old special needs man Joey Weber. However, it does appear that Hays Police Department, along with other emergency response crews from around Kansas, were invited to a First Response Autism Training Seminar.
Ashley Bates-Crowley runs the Team Josiah 2K22 Foundation. The foundation tries to educate not just response teams, but also parents and members of the community on how to properly deal with those who have special needs.
The shooting of Joey Weber hit to close to home for this mother.
The Daily Haze spoke to Bates-Crowley, who started the foundation in February 2015. Bates-Cowley’s son 6-year-old Josiah has non-verbal autism.
The shooting of Weber too close to home with Bates-Cowley, as her son’s nickname is ‘JoJo.’ Hearing the tragic news of a special needs man nicknamed ‘Joey,’ she immediately imagined how it would feel to be the parent receiving that horrifying news.
Bates-Cowley feels one of the biggest problems we have with our special needs community is the lack of education. “We live in a community where we families, whom some choose not to talk about their children having disabilities,” Bates-Cowley continued by saying, “But I always say, not talking about it is not fixing it or helping the next person.”
A common instinct for parents raising a special needs child is to protect the child from the outside world. Bates-Cowley believes this could be more harmful than helpful. Special needs children need to be educated about the world they live in, not hidden from it.
It is just as important for members of the community to be educated about special needs.
The Team Josiah 2K22 Foundation strives to educate all members of the community, not just 911 services, or parents of children with special needs. Bates-Cowley believes it is just as important for the community to understand how to deal with someone living on the spectrum, as it is for a parent or first responder.
Following the shooting of Joey, a surprising amount of people began asking, “what was he doing driving if he is special needs?” These comments alone highlight the problem of communities not fully understanding those with special needs. Being diagnosed with autism or any other disability does not mean you are not able to live any form of a normal life.
Hays police did not respond to a request to join a First Response Autism Training Seminar.
On August 16, Foundation held their first ever First Response Autism Training Seminar. The foundation reached out to first responders all around the Northwest Kansas area, including the Hays Police Department. None of them responded.
Two days after not attending the seminar, Joey Weber was shot and killed by a Hays police officer.
The Daily Haze reached out to the Hays Police Department for more details on why they did not have representation at the seminar. We were told nobody was available for comment at the time of the call.
Education is the best weapon we have to understanding those with special needs.
The Daily Haze also spoke with Clark County Sheriff John Ketron. Ketron is also on the board for the Kansas Commission on Autism. His 21-year-old son is diagnosed with high-functioning autism, and attending college in Hutchinson.
With his son on his own at college, Ketron understands the importance of educating communities about those with special needs. With his history in law enforcement, Ketron also sees both sides of teaching first responders how to identify someone with special needs, and how to approach the situation.
Ketron has been giving seminars to first responders, parents of special needs children, and community members in an attempt to raise awareness.
Police interactions with special needs suspects can needlessly escalate extremely fast.
On August 18, not only was Joey shot and killed by police in Hays, Daniel Kevin Harris, a deaf man, was shot and killed by a trooper in North Carolina. While these two shootings have gained attention due to the severity of the situations, it just scratches the surface of the dangers that exist in the relationship between special needs and first responders.
Far too often officers misinterpret signs of special needs for signs of aggression. If the special needs individual is non-verbal, it is very simple for a situation to turn from bad to worse due to the communication barrier. This is often the reason why situations escalate between officers and suspects with special needs extremely fast.
Special needs training courses are hard to get officers to attend. Ketron explained, when given the choice of attending a training course in dealing with special needs, or active shooter training, the majority of officers will be sent to active shooter training. Situations around the country help influence an officer’s decision in what training course he or she may choose, and what will be most beneficial.
Tomorrow night, at 7:00 pm supporters of Justice for Joey plan on having a demonstration at the Hays Police Department. The demonstration is called Silence speaks. For 1-hour, loved ones of Joey will stand in silence at the Hays Police Department as they continue to wait for answers. Those attending are asked to bring banners, but no music or chants of anytime. The silent demonstration is a response to the Hays Police Department, and Ellis County going completely silent in relation to information about the shooting.