New Details About This Disturbing Body Cam Video Of An Arizona Cop Injuring An Autistic Teen Because He Thought He Was On Drugs

Photo: AZ Family
Autistic Teen
Entertainment And News

Just awful.

The family of 14-year-old Connor Leibel is outraged after their autistic son was held to the ground by a police officer who mistakenly believed the teen was on drugs. 

According to the family, Connor had been left alone at a park for "just a few moments," while his caretaker went across the street to visit a local business.

While he was there, Officer David Grossman observed Connor moving his hand to his face in a "manner consistent with inhaling."

He made contact with the teen and asked him what he was going. In his incident report, Grossman stated that Connor appeared to have something in his hand that he held "upright with a closed fist." He also noted that the teen was sweating profusely. 

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In the below body-cam video that the department recently released to the public, you can hear Connor try to explain to Officer Grossman that he was "stimming," which is a behavior known in the autism community as "self-stimulating," which is a repetitive behavior used for someone to calm themselves. 

For Connor, stimming means holding a piece of yarn close to his face. 

After that exchange, the teen turned around and walked away. Officer Grossman grabbed his wrist, and Connor struggled and started to scream. The police officer held he teen on the ground for two minutes before his caretaker returned and explained that he was autistic. 

The police department is currently standing by Grossman's actions — who they mention is a state certified trainer in drug use recognition — and don't believe he used excessive force, saying they fell to the ground during a struggle. But the family disagrees. 

"This is as clear an example of inadequate training and supervision as you'll ever see," the family said in a statement. 

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"Had an officer received any kind of meaningful training on autism or people with developmental disabilities, he would have known exactly what Connor meant," said Timothy Scott, Connor's attorney. "He couldn't have put it in plainer language precisely what he was doing and yet the officer ended up grabbing him and putting him on the ground."

The family released photos that show Connor's large scrapes on his back and arms as well as a scrape near his eye. 

The incident took place in July, and Connor's lawyer said the teen is still struggling. Scott says the family wants Officer Grossman to apologize, to do community service with the autistic community and training in how to handle situations with autistic people for the entire department. 

If they do that, they'll be flexible in resolving Connor's financial damages. 

"The heartbreaking aspect of this case is that his family has always taught him that he can trust policemen and firemen but now he's terrified of the police," said Scott. "He does make comments still, months later, about 'Are the police going to hurt me?' and 'You're not going to hurt me, you're not the police are you?'"

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Emily Blackwood is an editor at YourTango who covers pop culture, true crime, dating, relationships and everything in between. Every Wednesday at 10:20 p.m. you can ask her any and all questions about self-love, dating, and relationships LIVE on YourTango’s Facebook page. You can follow her on Instagram (@blackw00d) and Twitter (@emztweetz).