A Saratoga County Sheriff’s deputy was videotaped tackling a teenager to the floor in a local Target department store in New York state. The relatives of the boy tried to inform the officer of what they say is the teen’s autistic condition, however, when they were ignored the conflict escalated, resulting in the cop being hit in the face with a soap dish.
The incident reportedly was prompted after deputies were told the boy was a theft suspect, but later store employees shared with witnesses they just wanted the child removed.
On Monday, April 18, two of Chante Ware’s children, her 14-year-old son, and 17-year-old daughter, were involved in an altercation with the deputy while shopping at the Clifton Park branch of the popular retail franchise. Without waiting for a guardian, the officer handcuffed the boy despite his sister advocating for her sibling.
Ware said her daughter called, telling her the police had detained her child. The mom explained, “At the moment, I knew that whatever had happened, it was bad because of the way she was crying. My anxiety went from two to one million.”
Ware said she had to remain steady because her children, who were both minors, needed her as “their voice.”
She said, “mentally and emotionally, I’m not OK, but for my children, I have to be strong because I am their voice.”
The sheriff’s department did not release the reason why the boy, whose name is withheld because he is a minor, was a suspect. But the Target representative said a security employee called law enforcement “after a guest entered the store who had previously threatened physical violence against one of our team members.”
Ware alleges that was not what she was told when she asked why were her children “being treated like this?”
“He’s like, ‘We were told they were suspects in a larceny.’ I said, ‘if they were suspects in a larceny, they would have been arrested already. They had money. My son had his wallet in his hand,” she recalled.
While her son was the one originally handcuffed, it was her daughter who was ultimately arrested. Her daughter was arrested for assault after allegedly striking the deputy with a soap dish.
Shopper Tracy Sangare, captured the incident on her cellphone, saying she wanted to help but didn’t know what to do: “Who do you call for help when it’s the police harming the people?”
In the video, the girl can be heard saying, “What the [expletive] are you doing? Get the [expletive] off my brother. … He has autism, he has autism.”
Also, other witnesses asked for the badge numbers of the deputies but were refused.
Sangare said she had actually finished her shopping and was already in the parking lot when she saw the patrol cars racing toward the store and decided to go back in to see what was happening.
She tweeted, “I just watched the police called on a Black 14 yr old boy at the Clifton Park
@Target. The police approached him & he immediately showed them that he had cash on him & he had no merchandise on him. The manager wasn’t saying he was stealing- the manager wanted him removed.”
She then recounted how his relatives shared with the officers the child was on the spectrum but said “that didn’t change anything.”
“The kids were so scared & there was NO de-escalation,” she tweeted, before posting to her followers Target was not a safe space for Blacks to shop.
“As soon as I saw the police officer with his hands on the child, I pulled out my phone and started videoing, and I turned to the manager and he said, ‘We just wanted them to leave,’” Sangare said.
The bystander said she overheard the teenager tell the officers he had money to pay for whatever they thought he had and he asked the deputy, “Why are you grabbing me?”
In her assessment of the incident, she said the boy “looked terrified, and she looked like she was just protecting her brother.”
Ware said the incident introduced complicated issues of authority for her son, who is already challenged in other ways, traumatizing him in a way that she fears cannot be undone.
She said, “He has issues dealing with authority now. Those that he once trusted, he will no longer trust.”
“There’s different levels of the spectrum, and people should really be familiar with autism itself. People walk around with autism every day, and you will not know.”
Days after the altercation, the Saratoga chapter of Black Lives Matter said the police came to the Ware family’s home on Thursday, April 21, and “ransacked” it. The group said that because the family no longer feels safe a fundraiser has been set up to move them from their home.
The organization tweeted, “The family’s home was ransacked by police this morning and the young girl is being targeted. The mother and children no longer feel safe in their home and would like to move into a hotel. Anything helps, so please donate and share.”
In one week, the last of Autism Awareness Month, the organizer has raised $12,391 out of the $20,000 goal.
In response to the incident, on Friday, April 29, Sangare joined the Black Liberation Coalition and a collective of multi-racial social justice advocates to protest the deputies’ actions in the parking lot of the store.
People were asked to wear red shirts to stand in solidarity with the two minors involved.