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Boy, 14, with autism tased by police in what family says was case of mistaken identity

Dolton Police Department

(CHICAGO) — An Illinois family said they are still reeling weeks after their 14-year-old son who has autism was tased by police in what they contend was a case of mistaken identity.

The family told ABC Chicago station WLS-TV that the teen — Avarius Thompson — suffered injuries including a fractured hip during an encounter with Dolton police on the morning of Nov. 20, 2023.

According to the Dolton Police Department’s incident report, Dolton police were assisting police in the nearby village of Riverdale in the search for four Black males who had fled from a crashed, stolen vehicle — two of whom were allegedly carrying rifles and a handgun.

Dolton officers spotted two subjects — one of whom matched the description of a suspect sought in the incident — in a nearby backyard and pursued them, according to the incident report.

An officer pursuing Avarius ordered the teen to stop before tasing him, according to the incident report.

The incident was captured on the officer’s body-camera footage.

“Hands up! Hands up!” a Dolton police officer can be heard yelling in the body-camera footage as he runs toward Avarius with his Taser extended. After the teen jumps over a fence, the officer deploys the taser, the footage shows.

Avarius attempts to get up when the officer deploys his Taser again a few seconds later, the footage shows.

“Don’t move. Don’t move,” the officer says. “You move, you’re going to get some more.”

Avarius’ father, Eric Thompson, told WLS that the footage was “frightening.”

“It was very scary,” Eric Thompson told the station. “I could see he was confused. He didn’t know what was going on.”

According to the incident report, a Riverdale officer “positively identified” Avarius as one of the offenders. The family’s attorney, Calvin Townsend II, told WLS he believes this was a case of mistaken identity, and that the teen’s clothing was similar to the suspect’s description.

“He’s a 14-year-old kid, and having officers rush toward you with what we know are Tasers but could be perceived as guns is scary,” Townsend told WLS. “Then you add the autistic aspect. Again, it’s very confusing.”

In the body-camera footage, another officer at the scene can be heard saying, “I don’t think that’s him, bro.”

“This might not be him,” the second officer says.

Avarius’ family can be heard expressing shock at the incident in the footage.

“He’s a little boy!” his sister, Allayja Toran, says after coming outside their home.

The teen can be heard telling his sister he didn’t do anything.

Avarius was transported to a hospital, where his mother, Gwendolyn Toran, can be heard telling the officers he is autistic.

“You can’t arrest an autistic kid, man! Y’all tased him. Y’all did that,” she says.

Avarius’ parents told WLS that their son suffered a fractured hip, bruising and had taser marks on his body.

After being seen by a doctor at the hospital, Avarius was released to the custody of Riverdale police, according to the incident report. He was released from custody later that day, his family told WLS.

The village of Dolton said in a statement to WLS on Wednesday that this “regrettable event” is under investigation, and that they are “committed to a thorough and transparent investigation with external reviews.”

“Mayor Tiffany A. Henyard demands that the police department adheres to the highest standards and has ordered a full review of the facts regarding this incident and has requested that the Village of Riverdale provide any documents [and/or] relevant information related to the matter to the Village of Dolton Police department,” the statement said. “Our dedication to serving and protecting our community remains unwavering, and we will take all necessary steps to prevent such incidents in the future.”

Townsend told WLS he does not believe Avarius has been charged with any crime. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office told ABC News they have not been contacted by police for charges related to the incident.

Avarius’ parents said they are still shocked by what happened. Townsend told ABC News earlier Wednesday he is planning to pursue legal action.

“He’s just a lovable kid,” his mother told WLS. “I just couldn’t believe that this could happen to my kid.”

“You see so many stories of stuff like this happening to kids, and they go to jail and they don’t come out. Something happens, they end up dying,” his father told the station. “That happens every day in this world, and I don’t want to see that happen to my son or anybody’s kid.”

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