Fifteen-year-old Chase Coleman, a nonverbal autistic athlete from Syracuse, New York, was physically assaulted during his cross-country meet in Rochester, New York, a few weeks ago, The Washington Post reports.
When Chase got lost during his race, his mother Clarise Coleman went searching for him. She was approached by a woman named Collin Thompson, who directed her to the missing athlete and told her she witnessed a man assault her son. Kris Van Metter, a bicyclist who was assisting Chase, also witnessed the altercation.
Thompson told police she witnessed Chase running in the middle of the road when an older White man got out of his car, aggressively pushed Chase to the ground and shouted, “Get out of here.” Van Metter recounted the same story to Syracuse.com.
“I see a grown man, who is quite tall and fairly heavy… exit the vehicle and give this young man a shove that puts him back 10 feet and flat on his butt,” he recalled. “Like, just shoved him across the road. The kid didn’t seem to be doing anything but standing there, obviously had nothing in his hands and weighed all of 130 pounds. This guy was easily twice that.”
The witnesses relayed the license plate number of the man’s vehicle to the police, who tracked the car to a Martin MacDonald in Pittsford, Rochester, New York. The 57-year-old confessed to assaulting Chase, claiming that he believed the young teen was going to rob his wife, who was in the passenger seat of the car during the attack.
MacDonald told a deputy that “Black youths” had broken into his car recently and that “crossed his mind” when he saw Chase.
When deputies relayed this to Coleman, she was astonished, stating, “That’s a lie. Chase [doesn’t] even know how to defend himself.”
“[Chase] was in a uniform. He had a number pinned to him. How did you think that he was out trolling to steal your car? … You can’t tell me that it wasn’t because my son wasn’t black. There were Asian kids, there were Caucasian kids. But you picked the black kid to say, ‘That crossed my mind?" she continued.
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On Oct. 21, Rochester City Court Judge Caroline Morrison informed the Colemans via mail that she was denying their warrant application and that MacDonald would not be charged for second-degree harassment.
“For an autistic, nonverbal student to have joined a team, to be competing in organized athletic programs and acting as a part of a team and community is the kind of success we strive for,” Democratic Syracuse Councilwoman Susan Boyle wrote in a letter addressed to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office. “For all of this progress to be lost due to a racist, aggressive, unprovoked attack on a disabled African-American minor with absolutely no consequences is, for lack of a stronger word, unacceptable.”
On Monday, The Associated Press released a press release stating that police would renew their investigation into Chase’s attack.
“It’s wrong in so many ways,” Boyle told The AP. “Remove race, and we still have a grown man who attacked a child in the street. I believe we’re going to see some justice.”
Despite this development, Chase suffered greatly from the traumatic event. The Post reports that since his attack, the 15-year-old has refused to attend practices and skipped running in his last meet of the season.
“MacDonald snatched a joy out of my child that took a long time to establish,” said Coleman. “He needs to face the music.”