CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 23-year-old Elijah McClain died in police custody last year in Aurora, Colorado. Some of his last words to police “I’m an introvert. I’m different. I’m just different.”
Elijah’s words have haunted parents of children with special needs, but especially parents of Black children with special needs-- children sometimes seen as “different.”
Salina Miller of Mother 2 Mother, a local support group, talks about why she thinks law enforcement needs training more with autistic children and mental health issues. She also talks about more awareness for all of us when people with special needs are triggered in public, we don’t misidentify them as a threat.
A 2016 report, analyzing incidents from 2013 to 2015 found “Almost half of the people who die at the hands of police have some kind of disability, as officers are often drawn into emergencies where urgent care may be more appropriate than lethal force.”
Dr. Ja’Nitta Marbury a local mental health professional who specializes in providing culturally competent care says the circumstances surrounding Elijah’ McClain’s death felt sadly familiar. She described how she created a laminated ID card for her family member who has autism. Dr. Marbury even detailed how common it is for someone to misidentify someone with autism as a threat in a personal incident.