According to a study published in December 2015 by the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in a police operation than other civilians who are approached or stopped by law enforcement. Disability rights journalist David M. Perry, whose son has Down’s syndrome, documented in research for the Ruderman Family Foundation that up to half of all people killed by the police are disabled. (tinyurl.com/y7hau3fu)
Witness the case of Eric Parsa, an autistic teenager from Louisiana who died on January 19, 2020 after the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies sat on him for 9 minutes.
Parsa’s parents are suing Jefferson Township Sheriff Joe Lopinto, the MPs involved, and the owners of the mall where the incident took place, alleging violations of Eric and his parents’ constitutional rights and violations of the law Americans with disabilities apply.
Eric began “experiencing a sudden sensory outbreak” related to his autism, the lawsuit said, and started beating himself and punching and grabbing his father. An off duty reserve alternate handcuffed Eric and sat on his back for the next seven minutes.
“The bottom line was that at this point the MP should have done, if things were calm and everything was okay, that they should take the strain off Eric Parsa’s back,” he said William Most, the family’s lawyer, during a press conference. “You should have rolled Eric Parsa onto the side to make sure he could continue to breathe. But the MPs didn’t do that. “
In the next few minutes, six more MPs arrived on site. One of them relieved the first deputy, got on Eric’s back and at some point put him in a stranglehold according to the lawsuit. Each of the MPs was aware that Eric had special needs, the lawsuit said, but none of them intervened to get Eric on his side in a “recovering position.”
“Only when his body went limp and he urinated on himself did the MPs roll him into the ‘convalescent position’,” the lawsuit said. “It was too late by then.” The Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office classified the death as an accident.
Boston police kill
Brian Shea, a Boston member of the Caucus of Workers World Party for Disability and Rights, shared the story of Terence Coleman of Workers World. Coleman, a black man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was killed by Boston police in 2016 after his mother requested an ambulance to take him to the hospital.
Police and prosecutors say he attacked paramedics with a large knife, but his mother – Hope Coleman, who is suing the city – denies that her son was armed or posed a threat
Terrence Coleman, who had gone into the apartment at the time the rescue workers arrived, was upset when he saw flashing blue lights and told them he didn’t want to go to the hospital – but the rescue workers insisted he come with them and tried to get him to pack. The officers stormed through the door when they heard a scramble and attacked and shot him.
Supporters have renamed Peter’s Park in Boston to “Terence Coleman Park” in his memory and honor.
Yudelovich is an activist for justice and rights of people with disabilities with neurodivergent and auditory disabilities. The caucus can be contacted at [email protected].