THE BLOG
05/31/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Heartbroken and Outraged over Autism Related Police Shooting

As a mother of a teenage son, I am heartbroken. As a friend and coach for teens and young adults with Autism, I am outraged and scared.

Last weekend, the LA Times reported that Police fatally shot an unarmed man, Steven Eugene Washington, 27 in Koreatown.

My heartbreaks for Steven's family and friends.

I read on.

When Steven Eugene, who has autism and was afraid of strangers, did not respond to the officer's command, they shot him. They shot him in the head.

I am outraged.

Oh my God. This could have happened to any of our children. This could be our son's or our daughter's plight. Steven Eugene's family had encouraged him to be independent. He enjoyed riding the bus and trains. He was taking classes at a community college and wanted to become a mechanic. He was generally wary around strangers and sometimes shy even around family members, his family said.

I know I have to have compassion for the two police officers as well.

Apparently, the officers spoke to Washington, but he approached them and seemed to remove something from his waistband, police said. They believed "he was arming himself" and fired, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said at an afternoon news conference.

I am sure had they known this was a shy, kind, young man with autism, they would not have shot him. I know that their lives are ruined as well. But why didn't the officers know about autism?

There must be a concerted effort to train/educate all police officers and all first responders about Autism. I will volunteer my time, and I know there are others who will also do the same.

Also, like Holly Robinson Peete so poignantly said in her poignant blog last week, it is essential that minority communities be educated about autism.

Judges, and the entire legal system must learn the facts about Autism.

What happened to Steven Eugene Washington must NEVER happen again. Let's not let this gentle man's death be in vain. We MUST educate ALL communities about Autism. May this be the last headline like this we have to read.

In sorrow,
Elaine

Elaine Hall

www.coacheonautism.com
www.themiracleproject.com