Family of autistic teen who died following altercation with store employees files lawsuit
FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Chamita Swanson visited her son's gravesite, holding a ballon release ceremony on the one year anniversary of his death. "Just to let him know that we do miss him and we do acknowledge him and we are celebrating him," she told FOX 5's Deidra Dukes.
She's filed a lawsuit in hopes of changing the way law enforcement interacts with people with autism.
The family is suing Fulton County, Grady EMS, and the Fulton County police officers, Grady EMTs, and city of South Fulton firefighters who responded that day, alleging negligence.
Attorney Michael Harper is representing Mitchell's family. He says while young autistic adults are considered legally capable and independent adults in society at the age of 18, they have special needs which should be recognized by law enforcement.
Harper stated, "The main goal for this lawsuit is to educate first responders on how to treat autistic people when they encounter them out in society. We want the first responders to be better trained to recognize and identify and treat autistic people, before they treat them as common criminals and misinterpet their activity which could lead to death, which happened in this case."
According to the police report, Mitchell struggled with responding officers, before they handcuffed him.
His mother photographed injuries she says he received during the confrontation. The teen collapsed and died of cardiac arrest after returning home a few hours later.
Swanson hopes some good can come of her son's death. By filing suit she says she hopes "to help other parents that have upcoming autistic children to help protect their children, because I can't protect mine no longer but I don't want my son's death to be in vain."
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