William Alcantara

Photo of a heavyset young man with dark hair and pale skin, smiling for the camera.Name: William Alcantara.
Died: December 10, 2020.
Age at death: 24.
Cause of death: Deep vein thrombosis.
Location: Chula Vista, California, USA.

Details:
William lived with his parents as a young adult. When he had to be taken to the emergency room, the state took him away from his parents and put him in a group home. His father believes this was because he had a habit of making waves–complaining about William not being scheduled for a dental appointment he needed, and later on in the group home, complaining that William was over-medicated so that he became tired but could not sleep.

At the group home, William began to lose weight. Originally a chubby young man, he became thin and his father worried he was going to starve to death. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, William and his parents were unable to visit, and even phone and video chat was becoming less available. William’s father told the county guardians about his son’s situation–how he was getting skinnier and more unhappy and unhealthy–but nothing was done.

William died from deep venous thrombosis, and on autopsy it was noted that his body was badly bruised. His death certificate calls his death “natural”, but his family believes he died from being forced to stay in one place all day, not allowed even to walk around. “The caregiver kept assaulting my son,” William’s father says, “punishing him to keep… calm.”

Deep vein thrombosis happens when a blood clot blocks a major blood vessel. The risk factors for DVT are old age, recent surgery, pregnancy, obesity, trauma, and inactivity. Of these risk factors, William had only two: Trauma (the bruising to his body) and inactivity (being forced to stay quiet in the same place all day, or perhaps restrained). DVT is a known risk factor of restraint or forced inactivity. Although DVT can happen without risk factors, the bruising to William’s body and the fact that this death was that of a young, otherwise healthy man makes it clear to me that there should be further investigation.

References: Father of son who died files negligence claim against San Diego County

Eric Parsa

Photo of Eric Parsa, a chubby teenage boy with light skin and dark hair in a buzz cut. He is smiling awkwardly for the camera. His T-shirt is red. He is leaning against a woman off to the left of the frame.Name: Eric Parsa.
Died: January 20, 2020.
Age at death: 16.
Cause of death: Suffocation in restraint.
Location: Metairie, Louisiana, USA.

Details:
High-schooler Eric liked going to Laser Tag. The staff there knew and liked him and tried to interact with him as much as they could, because they knew it was good social skills practice for him. He especially liked the bumper cars and the bowling alley.

Eric was at Laser Tag when he had a severe meltdown after an argument with his father. He began hitting himself and shoving and biting his father. Someone called the police, and the police pinned the teen down. Several large men knelt on his back, keeping Eric from breathing. Despite multiple opportunities to let him up and put him into the recovery position so he could breathe, police pinned him down for seven to nine minutes. When they finally checked on him, he was no longer breathing and could not be revived.

Video of the incident shows a typical autistic meltdown, with the teenager pushing and slapping at people nearby. The police perform a “take-down”, slamming him into the ground hard and restraining him in a prone position. This risks both head injury and suffocation.

Police are blaming Eric’s death on “excited delirium”; Eric’s parents are suing. “Never did we ever think that our 16-year-old son with special needs would die in front of our eyes at this age and in the hands of law enforcement,” his mother says. “Unfortunately, it is our reality of a nightmare.”

References:
Autopsy to be conducted on teen who died in police custody
Teen who died in JPSO custody after outburst at business was developmentally disabled, manager says
16-year-old special needs patient dies in Jefferson Parish custody
Metairie death at lasertag parking lot
For 16-year-old boy who died in JPSO custody, further testing needed to determine cause of death
Parents of autistic Louisiana teen sue over his death – claim son died when deputies ‘sat on him’
Lou v. Lopinto
Parents Sue Louisiana Sheriff and Deputies Over Autistic Son’s Death
Suit: Cops killed autistic teen by sitting on him, chokehold
Autistic teen died after JPSO deputies sat on him for more than 9 minutes, parents’ lawsuit says
LAWSUIT: Two Jeff. Parish deputies sat on teen with autism for 9 minutes before his death
Parents of teen with autism who died during arrest in Louisiana files suit against sheriff, deputies
A teen with autism died after Louisiana deputies sat on him for 9 minutes, parents’ lawsuit says

AJ Mitchell

Mitchell, AJName: Anthony Jermaine “AJ” Mitchell.
Died: November 23, 2019.
Age at death: 19.
Cause of death: Homicide (Unknown cause; died after confrontation with restaurant staff and police).
Location: Fulton County, Georgia, USA.

Details:
AJ was a cheerful young man who saw everyone as a friend. He enjoyed school and liked making people smile. When his mother was sad, he would always tell her, “Mom, it’s okay; don’t cry.”

On the day of his death, AJ went to a local restaurant, where he was known to go, to get food for his family. According to the restaurant owner, he ordered food but his credit card was declined; the restaurant owner gave him a meal anyway, but when AJ asked for another meal, the restaurant owner refused, and AJ jumped the counter. The restaurant owner claims he was “defending himself”, but actually, he and four other employees beat AJ and threw chairs at him, chasing him out of the restaurant where he sat on the pavement, bleeding from the mouth. When the police arrived, they restrained him and handcuffed him, worsening or causing more injury and probably compromising his airway.

Police called AJ’s mother Shanita to come pick him up. According to police, Shanita declined medical care for AJ; but Shanita never signed a document refusing medical treatment, and says she would never have refused medical treatment.

Shanita took AJ home and photographed his injuries. Shortly afterward, AJ collapsed, unconscious. Shanita called paramedics and tried to resuscitate him, but AJ didn’t respond. He died only hours after his confrontation with the police.

The exact cause of AJ’s death is undetermined; his mother is requesting an investigation. Any witnesses are urged to call Shanita’s lawyer at 404-965-3565.

References:
Family of teen with autism who died after confrontation with police holds vigil in his honor, while demanding answers
Conflicting stories regarding teen with autism who died following incident at South Fulton restaurant
Family of dead autistic teen demand answers from police
Doctors have not reached cause of death in Bojangles restaurant case
Teen with autism dies after altercation at Bojangles, family say
Family demands answers following autistic son’s death
Autistic teen dies after confrontation with employees, police at Bojangles

Elijah McClain

McClain, ElijahName: Elijah McClain.
Died: August 30, 2019.
Age at death: 23.
Cause of death: Restraint-related (Death in restraint; chokehold, sedated with ketamine).
Location: Aurora, Colorado, USA.

Details:
Elijah was home-schooled as a child, bright but independent. He worked as a massage therapist. Family described him as a “spiritual seeker, pacifist, oddball, vegetarian, athlete, and peacemaker who was exceedingly gentle.” An acquaintance said they thought Elijah wouldn’t so much as set a mouse trap for a rodent problem.

Elijah was walking down the road one evening, waving his arms. He had anemia and his face often got very cold; so he was wearing a ski mask at the time. Someone called the police. The police pinned Elijah down, restrained him, choked him, and cut off blood flow to his brain. Repeatedly apologizing, Elijah struggled to get a breath. Paramedics sedated him with a huge dose of ketamine for “excited delirium”, a diagnosis that is usually used to explain death from the stress put on someone’s body when they panic while being restrained. He passed out, was taken to the hospital, and was declared brain dead a few days later.

References:
Autism Awareness Month – Remembering Elijah McClain
What We Know About the Killing of Elijah McClain
The death of Elijah McClain—reflections on living with autism while Black
Death of Elijah McClain
1 year after death of Elijah McClain, ketamine injections during arrests draw scrutiny

Max Benson

Benson, MaxName: Max Benson.
Died: November 28, 2018.
Age at death: 13.
Cause of death: Malpractice (Restraint-related).
Location: El Dorado Hills, California, USA.

Details:
Max liked dogs, numbers, and rocks. He had a strong sense of justice. He had a twin brother and an older brother.

Max’s mother remembers him as smart and verbal. He went to a special-needs school because he “had behaviors”.

Max died because he was restrained, face-down, by staff at his school for over an hour. Face-down restraints are dangerous and potentially fatal, and have been responsible for the deaths of many disabled children, but are still practiced in schools.

Face-down restraint was common, a daily occurrence at the school Max attended, where children could be restrained as punishment for an offense as little as trying to remove a staff member’s hand from their own when they were grabbed. One student, a girl named Tracee, had had her arm broken in restraint, and later that day was forced to clean up after herself because she vomited while she was restrained; the girl’s mother sued the school. The outcome of that lawsuit wasn’t public, but soon after it was settled, the school became a private school. Another student, Katie Kaufman, who had gone there from sixth to eighth grade, said it was normal to be body-slammed to the ground. She was restrained simply for getting upset and cursing; her mother eventually transferred her to another school.

The state found that the school had broken several state rules by using prone restraint as a punishment for predictable behavior rather than as an emergency measure to prevent injury, by using much more force than was either necessary or reasonable, by continuing the restraint much longer than necessary, and not following Max’s behavior plan.

The school tried to defend itself with claims that Max was “280 pounds and 6 feet tall” and that he had “severe autism” and was dangerous (he was 5’3″ and 180 pounds at the previous January doctor’s appointment). Then they claimed that they had done their best to resuscitate the boy (in fact, they waited 30 minutes); then they insisted that they were “devastated by the loss”. Other parents didn’t buy it and started removing their own children from the school and demanding a shutdown.

The school has announced it will be closing, but the terms of the agreement do not prohibit another school from buying the property, rehiring former staff, and opening the school again. The teacher who helped pin Max down is still working as a special education teacher.

A teacher, principal, administrator and the school itself were all charged with involuntary manslaughter.

References:
Court hearing for former Guiding Hands staffers in boy’s death at school moves to January
Teacher who ‘pinned vomiting autistic boy, 13, face down for two hours before he died’ was allowed to keep working
Supporters of student who died after being restrained call for awareness and changes
School workers charged in death of autistic child
School Employees Charged Over Death of Teen with Autism
CA law protects special needs students at nonpublic schools
13-Year-Old Autistic Boy Died After He Was Physically Restrained at School
Sheriff’s Office: Teen with Autism Dies after Being Restrained at El Dorado Hills School
Probe Into Student’s Death Finds School Violated Rules
School Violated Several Regulations In Autistic Teen’s Death
School where student with autism collapsed and later died violated restraint rules, California regulators find
Teen With Autism Dies After Being Restrained At School: Family’s Attorney Questions ‘Inaccuracies’ In Initial Reports
Autistic Boy Dies After School Forcibly Restrains Him
Boy with autism dies after being restrained at school
13-year-old student with autism dies after being physically restrained at school
Conflicting Reports In Death Of Teen With Autism
Autistic Student Dies After Being Restrained Face-Down By Staff At California School For Close To An Hour
Autistic teenager dies days after being restrained at school
Teen with autism dies after being physically restrained at school
Family IDs 13-Year-Old With Autism Who Died After Being Restrained at NorCal School; State Orders Campus to Stop Accepting New Students
Parents Begin Taking Their Children Out of Specialty School after Student’s Death
The School Where A 13-Year-Old Autistic Student Died After Being Physically Restrained Allegedly Broke State Law
California says school where autistic boy died violated regulations when it put him in a restraint hold
Community Calls For Guiding Hands School To Shut Down After Teen’s Death
Protesters demand closure of school where teen with autism was restrained, later died
Probe into death of student with autism finds school violated rules
Vigil Held For Autistic Student Who Died After Being Restrained At School
Vigil honors Davis boy who died following school restraint
Dangerous Restraint-and-Seclusion Policies Put Disabled Students at Severe Risk
The School Where A 13-Year-Old Autistic Boy Died After Being Restrained Did So On Others Often, Parents And Former Staff Say
District pulling students as Guiding Hands loses state certification after teen’s death
Judge puts decertification on hold for special-needs school where teen was restrained, later died
Under scrutiny after boy’s death, Guiding Hands School announces closure this week
‘Beyond insensitive’: El Dorado Hills school, shut after boy’s death, holds party fundraiser