In what can only be described as a sickening case of extreme bullying, five individuals (3 adults and 2 juveniles) have been charged with felony kidnapping and aggravated robbery after they lured a 16-year-old autistic teenager into a neighborhood area and attacked him after initially indicating they wanted to "hang out" and be his friend. The victim, who has not been identified, is said to have recovered after the brutal attack, which took place this past December in St. Paul, Minnesota. The three adult attackers, who were charged last week, have been identified as Tiffany Clock, Anthony Ramos, and Trenton Johnson.
After following one of the juvenile suspects behind a library, the victim was allegedly confronted by the rest of his attackers and repeatedly punched in the stomach, handcuffed, and shoved to the ground. He was then shot twice in the head at close range with a BB-gun, which the victim believed to be a real handgun prior to it being fired. During the incident, the attackers also pilfered the victim of his belongings, which included a CD player, a camera and a cell phone.
Stories like these which include the bullying of autistic individuals and others with special needs are all too common. However, the callousness of these crimes seem to be increasing with their prevalence and something needs to be done about it.
In October of 2009, President Barack Obama signed an expanded Hate Crimes Law, which now includes protection of those with disabilities. It’s time to start strictly enforcing these new laws and then broadly publicize the consequences of committing these types of crimes. Only then will individuals begin to think twice before they decide to prey on the weak and vulnerable in our society.
Children and young adults with autism have numerous challenges to contend with on a day-to-day basis. Some of these include difficulty in making friends, isolation, and loneliness. They already have enough to contend with and we need to do a much better job in protecting them from predators and would-be attackers, many of whom gain their victims’ trust prior to committing their crimes.
Assuming Ms. Clock, Mr. Ramos, and Mr. Johnson (and the two juvenile attackers) are guilty, their swift and severe punishment would be a good start.