ABC7 EXCLUSIVE: Family seeks answers after police encounter leaves 14-year-old boy in hospital with fractured hip
DOLTON, Ill. (WLS) -- A local family says a Dolton police officer used a Taser on their 14-year-old son, who has autism, in November.
The family said their teen son, Avarius Thompson, was coming home after getting snacks from a grocery store when an officer used a Taser on him in his own backyard. He was later hospitalized.
The family's attorney said this was a case of mistaken identity, adding that police must be held accountable.
Bodycam video provided by Dolton police of the incident, which happened on the morning of Nov. 20, may be disturbing to watch.
"Get your hands up. Hands up. Hands up," a Dolton police officer can be heard saying in the bodycam video.
That's when the officer used his Taser on Avarius for the first time.
"Get down. I got a Taser deployment," the officer said.
Seconds later, the officer used his Taser on Avarius again.
"Stay down. Stay down. Don't move. Don't move," the officer said. "You move, you're going to get some more."
Avarius' father, Eric Thompson, described how he felt while watching the bodycam video.
"It was frightening. It was very scary," Eric said. "I could see he was confused. He didn't know what was going on."
According to the incident report, Dolton police were called to assist Riverdale police, who were searching for four Black males. Two of the males were said to have fled on foot with rifles and a handgun, according to the report.
At around 10:53 a.m., a Dolton police officer spotted Avarius in a backyard and pursued him before using his Taser.
"Don't move," the officer can be heard saying in bodycam footage.
"It's not me!" Avarius responded.
According to the police report, Avarius was positively identified as one of the offenders. But in the bodycam video, you can hear what appears to be another officer questioning whether they got the right person.
"I don't think that's him, bro," that second officer said.
"He took off running when I told him to stop!" the first officer responded.
"This might not be him," the second officer said.
Avarius' sister, Allayja Toran, came outside, asking Dolton police why they had her brother.
"He's a little boy! What did you do?" she can be heard saying in the video.
"I didn't do nothing," Avarius said.
"I know you didn't do nothing," Allayja said.
Avarius' mother, Gwendolyn Toran, said she rushed to the hospital, where her son was being treated.
"He's autistic! You can't arrest an autistic kid, man! Y'all tased him. Y'all did that," Gwendolyn can be heard saying in bodycam video.
"Calm down. Please listen to me," an officer responded.
After being treated at the hospital, the family said Avarius was turned over to Riverdale police, who released the boy later that day.
"Far too often, we're seeing this happen, not just in Illinois, but across the country," said Calvin Townsend II, the family's attorney.
Townsend said to his knowledge, his client has not been charged with a crime. He said this was a case of mistaken identity, adding that his client's clothing was similar to the suspect's description and made him a target to police.
"He's a 14-year-old kid. Having officers run toward you with what we know are Tasers, but could be perceived as guns, is scary," Townsend said. "And then, you add the autistic aspect. It's very confusing."
Avarius' parents said their son suffered bruising, Taser marks on his body and a fractured hip.
His parents said it was a traumatic situation for their son and the entire family.
"Everyone in the neighborhood loves him. His school loves him. He's just a lovable kid. I just couldn't believe that this could happen to my kid," Gwendolyn said.
"You see so many stories of things like this happening to kids, and they go to jail and they do come up. Something happens, and they end up dying," Eric said. "That happens every day in this world, and I don't want to see that happen to my son or anybody's kid."
Riverdale's police chief said multiple people were arrested and charged in the incident. He said the area was searched for a number of hours for weapons, and he said it should be noted that this all occurred near two schools.
The ABC7 I-Team asked the Cook County State's Attorney's Office if Avarius had been charged. They said they have not been contacted by police for charges related to this incident for anyone related to this case.
The ABC7 I-Team asked Dolton police if charges were filed, and if they did in fact pursue the wrong person in this case.
Full statement from village of Dolton
"Our thoughts are with Avarius Thompson and his family. Safety and well-being, especially for our vulnerable community members, are paramount.
The Village of Dolton responded to a call for assistance from the Riverdale police department, who was the lead law enforcement agency for this matter, and engaged Avarius Thompson during the encounter. The incident is currently under investigation, and we are committed to a thorough and transparent investigation with external reviews to determine this regrettable event. Mayor Tiffany A. Henyard demands that the police department adheres to the highest standards and has ordered a full review of the facts regarding this incident and has requested that the Village of Riverdale provide any documents relevant information related to the matter to the Village of Dolton Police department.
Our dedication to serving and protecting our community remains unwavering, and we will take all necessary steps to prevent such incidents in the future.
We remain committed to fostering a safe and inclusive community where all residents can feel protected and valued.
The Mayor's office is committed to transparency and protection of the rights of all citizens."