With Prejudice

I’ve been keeping secrets.

Because I had to.

Because it involved a court case.

That involved my son.

I wrote an anguished post with gut-wrenching pathos at the time it happened.

And I’ve waited until the final hearing to share it.

You may question whether it is appropriate to publish such personal information.

I certainly have.

But, I have decided that if it is at all possible to help another child by sharing what we endured…

…to reach out to other autism families.

…to other police officers.

…to other neighbors.

Then, maybe next time, nothing bad will happen.

Or something better will happen.

Or nothing will happen at all.

And wouldn’t that be beautiful!


Cops
Who did this protect and serve?

June 9, 2018

Dear Officer:

We met today under the worst circumstances. You were just doing your job; I understand that. But I feel I need to explain why I behaved the way I did and, perhaps, you can understand a little bit how the exchange seemed from my side of the handcuffs.

I came to the door, half-clothed and disoriented by lack of sleep, to learn my son had escaped. For fourteen years, I have been responsible for keeping my child safe and I have failed. Again.

But this was different from other times.

The neighbors whose home he entered were sleeping. All they heard was an intruder.

And my son no longer looks like the little boy he is.

When you first approached me, you said something about my son not responding to requests. My reply was not polite.

“Of course he can’t respond. He is a non-verbal autistic!”

You walked away as if you needed space to process that.

So, when you came back and asked me, “Do you realize what might have happened?” I answered you honestly.

“Yes. Yes, I do. It is my greatest fear.”

I was not trying to argue that the situation wasn’t serious. I was just grateful nothing worse had happened. I was focused on making my son feel better, to calm him down right now so he wouldn’t injure himself.

And you wouldn’t let me see him.

You have protocols for interactions. None of the officers would let me approach the car where my son was handcuffed. But I could hear him wailing from where I was standing in my bare feet on a damp sidewalk. You have your emergency response and I have mine.

I have a mother’s need to care for and defend her child. It doesn’t matter that my ‘child’ is five feet eight inches tall and weighs 170 pounds. He is still a child who was crying because you had his blanket, crayons, and papers. Materials now taken away in evidence.

It is probably not expected for officers to feel empathy for the wrong-doer, or his mother. To care about both sides of an equation. Perhaps you were running on adrenaline?

Did you train your firearm on my special need child? He couldn’t follow a simple command like, “Put your hands in the air and get on your knees.”

This thought haunts me.

I later learn, from the reports, that you had to tackle my child to get the cuffs on him. That he resisted and clung to a door frame as he was pulled from the house. This explained the bruises and abrasions.

Trust me, I can picture what might have happened in painful clarity.

In the past, when my son has escaped and entered homes or the nearby church, people have recognized his special needs and things have been okay. Maybe that made me blind to a growing problem.

The fact that my son was wearing a pair of Christmassy pajama bottoms and a Victory Day t-shirt from the school’s special needs programming wasn’t enough to tell you how very special he is.

The training that kicks in and locks an officer into a rigid response doesn’t allow you to recognize my shock and relief at a nightmare that wasn’t fully realized. Perhaps that looked like an insult to you? It wasn’t meant to be.

You couldn’t know that I had been sick with Salmonella. That Friday night was the first night I got any real sleep in almost a week. So, when my son woke at five a.m. Saturday, I was disoriented and put him back to bed. That when he woke me at 6:10 a.m., I was more so. That I fell back asleep is my fault. I promise you, I’m wide awake now.

I am haunted by what might have happened. I am haunted by it every time he is out of sight. I am haunted by a future I cannot see or control but can only dread. Fear never leaves me.

I am grateful that he wasn’t taken into a police station and booked. Thank you for releasing my son into my custody. Even if, like Cinderella, you sent him home with only one shoe.

I had hoped that the neighbors would drop the charges against my son for entering their home and scaring them so badly. But their fear was greater than their understanding of autism or the limits of a system that is not built for children like mine.

I do not blame them. Or I try not to. I understand how it must have looked from their side of the road; I just wish they could see the situation from mine.

Just as I hope you can understand. And that you never learn how it feels to watch your baby in handcuffs, crying and just wanting to go home.

*


Like many unpleasant life lessons, this has been a learning experience.

The wheels of justice move glacially slow. 

We waited weeks for the notice that my son was being charge with first degree home invasion. Then we had to be assigned an attorney by the court. Then there were appearances and reports to submit. The sheer drag time of getting a competency review dulled the initial sharp stabs of terror to a steady, gnawing anxiety.  I cried a lot this summer and into the fall.

During that time, Child Protective Services became involved. I was very grateful for the unexpected kindness of the Children’s Services Specialist who eventually cleared me of charges of neglect.

There were some positives.

The county health organization expedited Alexei’s process for getting ABA assistance as well as Community Living Supports. We are finally getting the help we’ve needed. 

Also, I was able to take advantage of a program through Vivint Gives Back to get a reduced rate for a security system that will wake me up if any one of the doors or windows are opened.

And my son’s window now has security bars, because he can get into trouble even faster than an alarm system can wake me.  (I stopped jerking awake at the slightest noise after these were installed.)

My son’s psychiatrist agreed to let my son take stronger meds to help keep him asleep.

And this week, my son was declared legally incompetent.

The case was dismissed with prejudice. Which is a good thing. It means he can’t be held responsible for his crimes and the verdict is final.

And I can only hope that the next time a family like mine is struggling, that it doesn’t take a crisis to get assistance. And that maybe the neighbors will offer to help make our lives easier instead of harder.

As for me, I spent these months channeling my fears and anxiety into my garden. Every time I had a panic attack or thought about losing my son, I planted flowers. I think I there are over five hundred bulbs and perennials out there now.

So, when spring arrives, perhaps it will bring a promise of better things.

Tulips

 

 

 

 

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41 thoughts on “With Prejudice

  1. I’ve been waiting to read this as long as I’ve “known” you:

    “The county health organization expedited Alexei’s process for getting ABA assistance as well as Community Living Supports. We are finally getting the help we’ve needed.”

    And no, it shouldn’t take a crisis to get assistance, but, in a way, until there is a crisis “the powers” don’t know there’s a problem. I hope this means that you’ll have more help and more peace and so will your son. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. Reading this, it struck me, my “what if’s” are all bad. I never—or rarely, if ever—think what if something good happens anymore. Day dreaming used to be fun as a child. I just think life beat the hope clean out of me.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I felt like I had to keep mostly quiet until it was over. Like I would jinx the outcome or something. Then, once it was done,I don’t know, I thought maybe I had blown it out of proportion, but I was still anxious, so writing it out and metaphorical letting it go is meant to

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  2. No, I think your reaction is completely in proportion to the awfulness of the situation. And of course the what ifs are negative. You must feel trapped and overwhelmed, and the fact that the neighbors in question are clueless and apparently unteachable makes it SO much worse. I’m very glad you’re getting practical support now, though, and hope that leads to some real, meaningful respite for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. I’ve actually started to relax some with all the breaks I’ve gotten. It feels almost indulgent to sit and read a book. It took me a long time to stop jumping up whenever I heard my kid getting upset. Pavlovian responses are kind of hardwired by now. Still, handing off the parenting tasks, while slightly guilty pleasures, has helped me to become a little more sane.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read this hardly breathing — until I got to the line “We are finally getting the help we’ve needed.” I am so sorry that you have had to endure so much in order to get help, and so glad that it has finally come. Wishing you brighter days ahead. Kia Kaha — stand strong.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. So, my 5 year old, nonverbal, was at her Grandparents’ house overnight, and wandered early in the morning without anyone noticing. She had run 8 acres through the woods, barefoot, and was found by the police after a search party went searching. She had scratches and cuts, but was very happy when she was found. This was terrifying, but at least she was little and cute, and the police were pretty good with her. I CAN NOT IMAGINE THE HELL YOU WENT THROUGH, yours being big and not cute anymore like a 5 year old, but I thank you for the heads up. it never occurred to me that she will be an adult and the police might not take such pity on her, like they would a small child.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My son has been a runner and escape artist. Many attempts to track and keep him safe failed after he got fast enough to get out of sight and into trouble before I could find him. This just crystalized the experience for me. I hope your daughter can survive her own journey to adulthood less scathed by her adventures. Thank you for sharing!

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  5. K I have learned so much about autism from your posts. I am a more informed and hopefully, compassionate neighbor because of them. I am glad to know that you and your son are getting some much needed support, but like you, wish it didn’t have to happen the way it did. We just passed a law here in Washington requiring more crisis de-escalation training for police officers, with a special emphasis on recognizing the mentally ill and developmentally disabled in such circumstances, along with some other tools that are so needed in the law enforcement community. Education is so important. Keep sharing your story and helping all of us to understand the challenges families like yours face on a daily basis. It’s good to hear that you are experiencing some relief after such an overwhelming ordeal. Warmest Regards and best wishes to you and your son.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is very heartening to hear—that stories can impact people is why I love writing. It is just hard sometimes to put the feelings into words. You did it beautifully. I would hope everyone can find the positive and hope for better-even from what seems like a hopeless position. Finding joy is a talent and I think you do it well. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh Kiri, my heart aches for you … all the fear and pain you’ve had to silently bear this year, and in all the years prior to this one as you have spent your life fighting with the love and fierceness that only a mother can, for Alexei.

    I’m in tears reading this in both horror and relief, and I’m glad that you are finally getting the help you truly needed, but wishing you needn’t have gone through this or so many other struggles for that to finally happen.

    Sending peaceful thoughts and hugs to you,
    Jen

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So powerful and enlightening. I admire your strength and poise Kiri. Such an extremely difficult position for both you and Alexei. Though great strides have been made in mental health awareness and understanding, still so much more work to do. I praise your coping method of writing and sharing your story. You offer an insight that has the potential to generate positive change. I cringe at the thought of you losing hope. Your story inspires me to believe that better days are coming. Not only for you and Alexei, but for all individuals whose uniqueness makes them vulnerable to a society that has been dominated with ignorance and fear for far too long. Glad to know your suffering facilitated some positive outcomes. You and Alexei are in my heart and I pray you find your tomorrows filled with more hope and less struggle. ~ Paix

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome.

        Thank you for your own nice words, but I think you suffer from the all too common “too critical of my own talents” tendency. Your prose in this piece was superb. A different style than mine, yes, but not less skillful. You pulled real emotions from your readers here, and that’s the highest praise I think anyone could heap on a written work. Your writing prowess does not take a back seat to anyone else’s. Especially mine.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Okay. That’s it. You are now my ”cool” friend. The one I get to point to and say, “SEE THAT GUY, HE LIKES MY WRITING!!!” You’ll just have to tolerate the gawking looks …and the exclamation redundancies involved in my comments.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I am not a cop – but I have worked in law enforcement as an analyst for almost 30 years – and let me tell you, this is a cop’s worst nightmare. There have been several shootings over the years of people who, for one reason or another, cannot or did not respond to police commands, and despite the training, officers still make this mistake.

    Your approach of writing to the officers and getting to know them and them getting to know you and your son is the best approach. In the old days of neighborhood beats, the likelihood of this happening as less because the officers knew the people, now they just patrol in cars.

    Still, when they get to know you, they spread the word.

    Glad things are improving.

    Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wrote a different letter to the actual police department. This was more of an emotional venting. I recently got my son’s crayon and blanket back from the (going blank here, it’s not called lost-n-found) the place they keep evidence. I have to wonder if it was as surreal logging it in as it was picking it up.

      Thanks for reading. It helps to get a global perspective when second-guessing is second nature.

      Like

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