VACAVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — Ring video captured Wednesday afternoon shows a teenage boy with autism being slammed and punched in the face repeatedly by a California police officer.
“I just want my son to be able to play and interact with people and not be bullied,” said Adam Wolf, whose 17-year-old son, Preston, was detained by Vacaville officers. “I was angry.”
Preston Wolf has autism and ADHD.
“He just loves being outside,” Adam Wolf said. “He loves playing with people and meeting new people, but we feel like now he can’t do that.”
According to Wolf, another boy, who police say is 16 years old, tried to pick a fight with Preston while he was playing at a nearby creek.
“My son picked up a piece of metal or a metal pole off of the ground to defend himself, and I was told that an older gentleman intervened,” Wolf told KTXL.
Preston then went to play with a close neighbor, unaware that police had been called and were searching for him.
“The police responded to what they were told and this is what they tell me was a report of a stabbing,” his father said.
Police say the officer found the 16-year-old before finding Preston. Vacaville police did not say whether the 16-year-old had any injuries.
When the officer later found and confronted Preston, things quickly got out of control, as seen on the home surveillance video.
“He confronted Preston, asked Preston to sit down. You can see he sits down. The police came over and threw his scooter and got in his face,” Wolf described. “Preston got scared, and that’s when he got up and the officer felt the need to throw him to the ground, and then straddle him and punch him directly in the face.”
Police say the officer had used “distraction strikes to overcome resistance.”
Audio from the video also captured the officer warning Preston, “You are going to get hurt. Don’t make me hurt you more.”
KTXL asked police about the officer’s acknowledgement that he had already inflicted pain, but they did not give a specific answer.
“Details of what the officer said and his actions at the time of the arrest are currently being investigated,” said Sgt. Katie Cardona.
The scuffle was recorded on Josh Bartholomew’s Ring security system and was witnessed by his 5-year-old son.
“Yeah, it was the most horrendous thing I’ve ever witnessed from a police officer in my city,” said Bartholomew.
“I heard screaming and yelling,” Bartholomew recalled. “I came out of the house, I stood right there and that’s when I saw the officer actually strike Preston in the face.”
Bartholomew said he tried to intervene by telling the several officers who were holding Preston down that he had special needs.
“The officer at that time had the opportunity to deescalate the situation, and he chose to escalate the situation in a manner that resulted in Preston, in my opinion, being assaulted,” he said.
After being detained for an hour, officers brought a Preston home, bruised and terrified.
“On top of that, they tried to get him, who is a 17-year-old and is autistic, they tried to get him to sign a citation,” his father said.
The Vacaville Police Department responded a statement about the incident Thursday.
We understand the video posted on social media can appear very disturbing. When we receive a 911 call involving an assault with a deadly weapon and potential stabbing, we respond immediately to ensure we keep those in the vicinity safe. Our officer had a clear description of the suspect and the minor who was arrested fit this description. Following the arrest, the family explained their son as a special needs individual. This was not known to our officer; his responsibility was to find and apprehend the suspect to prevent further injury.Ian Schmutzler, Vacaville Police Department Acting Chief
Wolf has not been told if the officer who hit his son will face any repercussions. He says he does want the officer to be held accountable.
He said he will be using this experience to show other officers how not to handle children on the spectrum.
“I’m very pro-police, but I’m not pro-abuse,” he said.
Vacaville police say the officer is still on duty as the investigation continues.