A Virginia mother is demanding answers after she arrived at her autistic son’s tennis lesson to find him handcuffed on the ground.
The 12-year-old later had to be treated for a concussion after officers detained him in the program meant to help bridge the relationship between Black youth and police, according to his mother.
“I wanted him to have a positive view of police officers and not all the negativity he sees on TV,” Sheila Jackson told CBS 6.
Jackson’s respect for her uncle, who was a police officer, motivated her to sign up her son, Curtis Hayes, for an after-school tennis program run by the Richmond Police Athletic League at Virginia Commonwealth University. She wanted Curtis to be comfortable around police officers. However, Jackson was shocked when she showed up at the courts on Nov. 3 and found him on the ground in handcuffs and restrained by a group of officers, she said.
“There was an officer holding his head. There was an officer on his left leg. Someone on his right leg. There was an officer on his right side kneeling holding his shoulders down, and then there was another officer standing up,” Jackson said.
The Lobs & Lessons after-school program serves up to 40 children a day, five days a week, according to the program’s website. However, participants come to the center on selected days during the week. It was Curtis’ second year in the after-school program.
The program not only teaches the participants to serve on the court but also life lessons such “as game, etiquette, sportsmanship, positive attitudes, fair play, self-esteem and how to take responsibility for choices.”
“These life skills are integrated throughout the tennis program, and instructors routinely demonstrate how they apply to situations in all aspects of life,” the website says.
Program staff reportedly told the mother that Curtis had become frustrated during the lessons, and he was told to practice on the side.
The child told his mother that one of the officers yelled at him, and he walked away before the officer grabbed him.
“He knows to try to self-regulate and walk away from a situation. She may have thought he was being defiant,” Jackson said.
But Jackson said police told her Curtis head-butted an officer, and they were concerned that he would run away. However, the mother is unclear about what happened. She has requested a copy of the police report but says it did not include details of the incident.
“We ended up going to VCU emergency room. They diagnosed him with a TBI concussion,” Jackson said.
Virginia Commonwealth University police said they responded to a call about a disturbance involving a juvenile and Richmond Police, but the child and the parent were no longer on the scene when they arrived, according to reports.
A spokesperson for the Richmond Police Department told CBS 6 they are investigating the incident.
“That is not how he should be dealt with, not only my son, anyone,” Jackson said. “Where is the training? Are you just going to the training, and you’re not taking it in?”