Autistic teen booked in traffic controversy

Tawnya Nevarez says what happened to her 16-year-old son last Friday was a “devastating experience!"

Last Friday afternoon a Burbank police officer stopped Nevarez's car because her son wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

Attorney Areva Martin says, “She (Nevarez) immediately tells the officer her son is autistic and asks for an opportunity to talk to her son and the officer, in a very aggressive way continues as mom continues to plead to allow her to deescalate the situation.” But, the police say it was the 16-year-old who became aggressive pushing open the car door striking the officer in the legs and knees. 

Burbank Police Sergeant Claudio Losacco says, “the officer ordered the young man to stop his attack and he failed to do so… (he) punched the officer in the upper body and in the head.

The teen was booked on four counts including assaulting a police officer which is a felony. There were three misdemeanors as well including Fighting in Public, Obstructing a Police Officer and Battery on a Police Officer.  It will be up to the DA whether to file charges and prosecute.

Police say they decided to arrest and book the teen because of evidence gathered since last Friday. But, the family thinks the officer went overboard in his actions. Says Martin, “How is it that this routine seat belt traffic stop turns into a parents worst nightmare, son on the ground, pepper sprayed and tazed despite her insistent pleas about his developmental disorder.”

Losacco says, “As long as there’s an open dialogue and there’s conversation and there is no physical threat or violence we will talk until the sun goes down and until it comes up again, but at the point where somebody with autism or not decides he’s going to attack an officer the officer has the right, the obligation and the necessity to defend himself.” He also says, "

Says Martin, “I can’t speak for how the officer felt or what the officer may have felt in that moment, I can tell you that talking to this mom her son did nothing to justify the treatment that he was given.”

Nevarez wouldn’t take questions on the incident, but, said tearfully, “Seeing my child on the ground that was being tazed by a police officer was the worst moment in my life... seeing him being arrested is the second most worst thing.”

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