Paul Childs

Paul ChildsName: Paul Childs
Died: July 5, 2003
Age at death: 15
Cause of death: Police Shooting
Location: Denver, Colorado, US

Paul Childs had "developmental disabilities" and a seizure disorder. At fifteen, he was getting bigger, and his mother sometimes called the police to help her get him to take his medication.

Paul was a loving boy. His mother had to teach him that it wasn't polite to hug strangers; at fifteen Paul he had learned that he could stand a few feet away and open his arms for a hug, instead of running straight in. He liked to swim and bike. He had an on-again, off-again girlfriend he attended prom with in his freshman year. Though behind grade level and needing large-print books because of a seizure-related visual impairment, he was a diligent student about to enter his sophomore year.

Paul lived in what we would call a "bad neighborhood", where police regularly had to shut down crack houses. But Paul's family had a good relationship with the police. Paul himself loved the police, and his family sometimes called them when he was upset, thinking of it as "calling Paul's friends". Paul liked to walk and often walked long distances or got onto a bus. When he wandered too far from home, his family often called the police to help retrieve him. Paul thought of the police as his friends.

Recently released from the hospital after a grand mal seizure, "off-kilter", and having torn his own room apart before falling asleep the night before, Paul was confused and irritable. He had been upset and depressed for a week and hadn't said a word all day.

Paul had been making lunch and was holding a knife when his mother called the police to talk to him. She thought that because he loved police so much, they might help him calm down. The knife itself was large, but it was a kitchen knife with a broken tip and blunt edge. Paul's mother leaned her head on his shoulder and said, "You know I love you, right?"

When Paul's mother went to the door to explain what was going on, the officer pulled her away from the door, saw Paul with the knife, and ordered Paul to drop it. Paul, who often didn't understand commands the first time and was unusually confused that day, didn't comply with the order. The officer briefly called for a taser, but then simply shot him four times, once in the back. Paul was taken away in an ambulance. He died alone because his mother and sister were being interviewed by police.

Editor's Note: Paul Childs may not have been autistic. He is included here because he is occasionally referred to as autistic or as having a "developmental disability" and because his symptoms–limited speech, wandering, epilepsy, and awkward social interaction–are a match for autism or an autism-like disorder. Even if Paul was not autistic, he was exposed to the same danger from police that autistic people are.

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