BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A Glynn County mother is calling for change after an encounter with her adult non-verbal son with autism resulted in him being tased multiple times by police officers.
On Sep. 4, at about 8:30 p.m., officers received a 911 call regarding a man carrying a weapon near the Dollar General store near Stafford Avenue in Brunswick, according to the Glynn County Police Department. Dispatch told responding officers the man was "screaming and hitting himself in the head."
In body camera video released by the police department, officers appear to encounter a man, identified as 21-year-old Rajon Cherry, holding an object in his hand. The video later reveals the object to be a cooking spoon.
The video appears to show the officer telling Cherry, who is walking slowly toward the officer, to drop the object. The officer, with his TASER drawn, repeats the command four other times before firing the TASER.
Cherry screams but was not immobilized by the TASER, the video appears to show. However, he did drop the spoon he was holding.
The video also appears to show police ordering Cherry to get on the ground as he walks while picking at the barbs. The officer tases him a second time, then Cherry screams and falls to the ground. He stands back on his feet, and officers push him against a squad car.
Cherry gets away from officers and begins to jog away, the video appears to show. He is then tased again by another officer.
It is at this point a bystander can be heard telling him to follow the officer's orders. The officers tase him again, but he did not fall to the ground or scream as he had before. However, he does appear to look confused and makes audible, but non-verbal groaning sounds.
The video appears to show the officers continuing to tell him to get on the ground as he walks around. As he walks away from the officers, one of the officers hands another officer his TASER, which is used on Cherry.
As the officers tell him to lay down, Cherry takes off running, the video appears to show. The officers tase him again. He screams and falls, but quickly gets back on his feet and starts to walk away again. As this is going on, a woman tells the officer Cherry has autism. The officer tells her to calm down.
As Cherry continues to walk away from officers, the video shows a squad car pulling up on the left of the screen. As he walks towards the car, an officer tackles him by the waist onto the ground. He screams and groans while officers struggle to restrain him. They then attempted to handcuff him for several minutes.
During this time, the woman can be heard frantically yelling at the police, begging the officers to let go of him. One of the officers yells, "You are not helping!"
The officers attempt to communicate with Cherry saying, "We're going to help you," and "Roll onto your belly buddy."
The video appears to show the officers tasing Cherry again while the woman screams. Cherry can also be heard screaming and groaning.
At this time, a male bystander can be heard yelling at the officers. The officers continue to order the bystanders to calm down until Cherry is handcuffed. It takes approximately two and half minutes for police to handcuff him from the time he was tackled, according to the video.
About three minutes after he was tackled, police bring Cherry to his feet. Afterward, police escort him to a squad car and help him to sit down, after which an ambulance is called to the scene.
Two officers walk towards another squad car and debrief with another officer.
"Finally, I saw an opportunity - took him down and held him down until more got here," the officer said. "That was the best option we had."
The entire incident from the first encounter police had with Cherry until he was placed in handcuff was about seven and half minutes.
First responders took Cherry to the hospital to treat his TASER wounds and for evaluation, according to police. However, he was released back to the custody of his family before receiving treatment. No charges were filed.
Officers received only minor injuries, police said.
“I commend the officers for using less lethal force and their ability to read the terrain as the event unfolded, preventing loss of life or serious injury to anyone involved,” Glynn County Police Chief Jacques Battiste said in a statement.
However, Cherry's mother, Sherril Johnson, is angry about how the police handled the incident considering her son has autism.
"Let's look over the black and white fact. Let's look over the special needs fact. You didn't treat him as a human," she said.
His mother believes the incident should serve as an example of why officers need training to deal with people with autism.
"Hire an educated person that's trained to deal with people with special needs," she said.
The incident is under an administrative review by the Glynn County Police Department.