Chase Coleman has been running cross country for over two years. Sometimes he may meander or get a little lost on his way but that’s okay. It is something he takes a lot of joy in. What’s more, it is a team sport which is a big deal for Chase. He is autistic and people with autism tend to be societal castaways.
Clarise, his mother, has been the consummate supportive parent. She frequently takes road trips with Chase to go to his meets and cheer him on. But Clarise knows Chase get’s lost so she is also serving as a protector by scouting the racecourse and trying to find the places where Chase might go astray. She wants to be near those areas so she can help him find his way back. She wants to keep him safe.
Now Chase won’t run anymore. Somebody had to take that from him.
Lost and Found
Chase was running a 5k at a meet in Rochester, New York when he got lost again. This wouldn’t be like the other times Chase had ventured off course. This time an angry older white male would teach Chase a thing or two about just existing.
Clarise was waiting for Chase near a reservoir in Cobb Hill Park at the base of a hill. When Chase failed to crest the hill, Clarise decided she needed to find her son.
“I started walking that direction, and I’m screaming his name out: ‘Keep going, Chase!’” Coleman told The Washington Post in an interview. “And a young lady came up to me and said, ‘Are you looking for one of your runners?’ … She said, ‘Some man just assaulted him.’ ”
Coleman tore off in the direction the woman pointed and soon found her son.
“I asked, ‘Is Chase okay?’ ” Coleman said, “I check his body. I’m checking his face. I pulled his shirt. ‘Show Mommy where Chase hurts.’ ”
Chase put his hand on his back and said “back.”
According to one of the witnesses, Collin Thompson, Chase had been running in the middle of the road when an older white male got out of his vehicle and pushed the young man to the ground and screamed “get out of here.”
Another witness named Kris Van Metter was riding his bicycle in the park also saw the incident.
“I see a grown man, who is quite tall and fairly heavy … exit the vehicle and give this young man a shove that puts him back 10 feet and flat on his butt. Like, just shoved him across the road. The kid didn’t seem to be doing anything but standing there, obviously had nothing in his hands and weighed all of 130 pounds. This guy was easily twice that.”-Van Metter
Luckily the two witnesses took down the license plate number on the car before the man drove off. He has been identified as 57-year-old Martin MacDonald.
A deputy went to the perpetrators home to question MacDonald on the incident. The report reads:
“When [the deputy] asked him why he did that, he replied that he thought Chase was going to mug his wife and take her purse. MacDonald’s wife was sitting in the front passenger seat at the time of the [incident]. When [the deputy] asked him why he thought that, MacDonald told him that some youths had broken into his car recently and that crossed his mind. MacDonald went on to say that Chase wasn’t responding to him telling him to move out of the road.”
Chase is a near total nonverbal autistic person. He was also in a run with a big paper number on his chest and back.
No Justice for Chase
A week later Chase refused to go to practices. He turned in his uniform to his coach. He may now be so afraid that he will never run again.
Rochester City Court Judge Caroline Morrison has refused to file charges on the grown man who assaulted an autistic youngster. There is no justice for Chase.
“For an Autistic, nonverbal student to have joined a team, to be competing in organized athletic programs and acting as a part of a team and community is the kind of success we strive for. For all of this progress to be lost due to a racist, aggressive, unprovoked attack on a disabled African-American minor with absolutely no consequences is, for lack of a stronger word, unacceptable.” – Excerpt from a letter to the Court from Syracuse city council member Susan Boyle
There is a possibility of a civil suit. But with the miscarriage of justice so far, one has to wonder if the man’s privilege will get him out of that as well.
“He snatched a joy out of my child that took a long time to establish,” Coleman said. “He needs to face the music. This is still a child and it was unprovoked. He needs to wear some handcuffs and go through that whole process.”
“We just keep telling him, ‘You didn’t do anything wrong. Chase is good. There are mean people and there are nice people and this person was just a mean person,’ ” Coleman said. “We just keep apologizing to him that happened. Especially me. I kept apologizing to him that I couldn’t keep him safe.”