Sterling McCain

Photo of a man with brown hair, fair skin, and a full beard. He is wearing glasses and a plaid flannel shirt.Name: Sterling McCain.
Died: April 3, 2021.
Age at death: 24.
Cause of death: Murder (Shooting).
Location: San Angelo, California, USA.

Details:
From Sterling’s obituary:
“Sterling had many interests, but some of his favorite hobbies were fishing and playing the guitar. He was a much more accomplished guitarist than fisherman, but that never discouraged him from trying. He loved Harry Potter and had quite the collection of all things Hogwarts. He also enjoyed grilling outdoors; he always cooked the best steaks.

“Sterling had a very caring and sensitive heart. He rescued virtually every dog he found, always making room for one more. He also loved to surprise Myan with simple little gifts that he always tried to keep a secret, but his sly little grin always gave him away. He loved his family and enjoyed the simple things in life.”

Sterling and his wife were having marital problems, so they decided to go on a drive to discuss things and rekindle their relationship. But things went wrong. At a restaurant, Sterling got drunk and argued with a waitress; on the way home, Sterling became non-verbal and had to communicate through text messages, which got increasingly jumbled as he started reversing his pronouns, calling himself a demon, talking about burning in hell, and talking about killing himself and killing his wife.

On the drive home, Sterling’s wife called a family friend, asking for help. The friend gathered a rifle and a large knife, called the police to report a possible assault, and awaited the couple’s car. Sterling’s wife reports that he pulled her hair and grabbed her by the neck.

When they pulled into the driveway, Sterling exited the car, and his wife locked herself into the car. Sterling went to the house and started banging on the siding; then he went to the door. The friend met him at the door, holding a rifle, which Sterling tried to swat away. The friend shot him multiple times, killing him. Sterling was unarmed at the time. The shooter has been charged with murder.

Sterling, like many autistic adults, found it very difficult to get any support. He had been repeatedly bullied at work. When he had a breakdown and police were called, they did not respond to the call until after he had been shot.

Editor’s note: Autistic people are, of course, neither angels nor demons; we are no more prone to violence than the average person. Sterling’s behavior should not be condoned–but neither did it deserve death, especially since the man who shot him could see Sterling’s wife was safe in the car, knew the police were on their way, and knew Sterling was unarmed. Sterling, having consumed alcohol and in the middle of an autistic meltdown, would very likely have responded well to being left alone and allowed to calm down on his own.

References:
Details: Man with Autism Shot and Killed Saturday
Sterling James McCain Obituary

Ryan Kowal

Kowal, RyanName: Ryan Kowal.
Died: January 23, 2021.
Age at death: 21.
Cause of death: Negligence (Choked while unsupervised).
Location: Bakersfield, California, USA.

Details:
Ryan lived in a supported living facility. He had a tendency to put things into his mouth, so he had to be fed a soft diet and watched carefully to prevent him from choking.

Ryan died because he was left alone with some crackers by his caregivers, and crammed them into his mouth and choked. Staff knew the risk; seven months before, Ryan had nearly choked during a similar incident.

References:
Family files suit after death of autistic man in Bakersfield care facility
Parents hope lawsuit helps spark change after son’s choking death at local care center
Wrongful death lawsuit filed in autistic man’s choking death

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

Roy Curtis

Habayeb, AymanName: Roy Curtis (Birth name Ayman Habayeb).
Died: August 21, 2019.
Age at death: 28.
Cause of death: Suicide/Neglect (Hanging; Ignored by social services despite needed support).
Location: Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England, UK.

Details:
Roy lived on his own, though he was disabled and could not work. He was estranged from family. On government benefits, he constantly had to deal with paperwork and make phone calls, and with every move he risked that his benefits would be terminated if he did not do everything right. He was asked to attend a “work capability assessment”, where the officials ignored his needs and reduced his benefits. There was no one to help him with the paperwork, and every effort seemed aimed at rejecting him for benefits. Stressed, Roy came down with depression.

Roy was unable to trust the mental health system because he knew that the only help offered him would be a four-week stay in a crowded mental health unit, where he would receive little help, would deteriorate from the stress and lack of privacy, and would be inevitably discharged after four weeks even if he had not improved.

Eventually Roy was scheduled for another work capability assessment. Tired of being ignored and refused help at every turn, he declined to attend. His benefits were terminated and, unable to pay the rent, he was being threatened with eviction. He knew that he would be unable to buy food and would be homeless when his benefits were stopped; so he decided to, instead, commit suicide. His body was found hanging in his apartment months after his death.

Editor’s note: Making assistance impossible to obtain and making benefits impossible to maintain without assistance ultimately caused Roy’s suicidal crisis and death. His parents are angry that social services did not communicate with them about his case, but Roy had directly asked social services not to do so, and in this–though in nothing else–they respected his wishes. Social services were right to listen to Roy’s desire not to have his parents take over his case, but they were utterly negligent in not offering the help he needed, either with maintaining his benefits or with treating his depression. Had Roy had a reasonably competent case manager assigned to him, the outcome might have been very different.

References:
Shy young autistic man lay dead in his flat for nine months before anyone noticed, inquest hears
Grieving parents of autistic man whose body was found in cupboard slam council
Damning suicide of autistic man blaming DWP after benefits slashed before death

Kedar Williams

Williams, KedarName: Kedar Williams.
Died: August 13, 2019.
Age at death: 19.
Cause of death: Negligence (Choked; diet plan ignored).
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, USA.

Details:
Kedar liked people-watching at the shopping center CityPlace. He liked riding the trolley. He often sat on his grandmother’s porch, just watching people walk by. He loved dogs and, after he had begged his parents for a long while, his family adopted a Yorkshire terrier named Bella.

When Kedar was in his mid-teens, he started having problems swallowing. While eating a meal with his family, he choked and nearly died; he spent time in a medically induced coma in the hospital before recovering. Luckily, Kedar’s problem didn’t prevent him from eating on his own–he merely had to have his food cut into small pieces, and have someone sit with him when he ate to make sure he ate slowly and washed each bite down with his drink. His mother and pediatrician designed an education plan, approved by the school, that he would always have one-to-one supervision.

Only a year later, however, Kedar was riding the bus–without an aide–when he got some snack food out of his backpack, put it into his mouth and choked again. This time, Kedar’s sister intervened and saved him. His mother went to the school and insisted that Kedar’s safety plan be followed, showing them a photo of Kedar in a coma to make it clear what happened when he was not supervised while eating.

At 19 years old, Kedar was starting another school year. His previous aide wasn’t available and he hadn’t been assigned a new one. At lunch, though he was supposed to be on one-on-one supervision, he was sharing an aide with another student. Two days into the school year, Kedar tried to eat some chicken nuggets. He choked and died.

References:
Family to get $2 million after student choked to death on chicken nugget
A closer look at the Palm Beach County special needs program following student death
Exclusive: Local mom searches for answers after her autistic son dies at school
Mom: Dwyer student choked to death despite my warnings
KEDAR WILLIAMS’s Obituary