An upset mother expressed outrage after her 16-year-old son, who was subdued with pepper spray and a Taser during a physical confrontation with a Burbank police officer during a traffic stop last week, turned himself in on Friday.
Through tears, the teen's mother spoke out during an afternoon news conference, claiming the officer's actions caused her son with autism to react the way he did.
"Seeing my child on the ground being Tased by a police officer was the worst moment of my life," said Tawnya Nevarez, the boy's mother.
A devastated Nevarez walked her son into the Burbank Police Department station Friday, where the 16-year-old was booked into the juvenile system. He was cited and released, but possibly face a felony change in connection with the July 8 incident.
Nevarez insists that her son was the victim in the incident, saying that the officer unnecessarily pepper sprayed and used a Taser on him.
"He has a seizure. She's witnessing this, watching him on the ground," said Areva Martin, the family's attorney.
Martin said that Nevarez told the officer after he approached her vehicle last Friday near Burbank Boulevard and Hollywood Way that her son has special needs.
The teen “told the officer he’d ‘forgot’ to put his seat belt on,” according to a police news release, and the boy’s mother, who was driving, said “she was in a rush to get to her destination.”
"She immediately tells the officers that her son is autistic, and asked for an opportunity to talk with her son. And the officer in a very aggressive way continues," she said.
The officer reacted after allegedly being attacked by the teen as the incident escalated, according to the release.
"We are talking about somebody that assaulted the officer," said Burbank police Sgt. Claudio Losacco. "At some point in that stop, the young man pushed open the car door, which struck the officer in the legs and the knees. The mother tried to keep the child inside the car, he was able to break free, got out, attacked the officer."
The boy initially had refused to put his seat belt on, telling the officer he would do so once he walked away. When the policeman stepped back from the vehicle, the teen complied with the earlier order, the release stated.
Then, as the officer was concluding the stop, the teen allegedly told the policeman he was going to "fight" him "right now" and opened the car's door, police said in the release.
"The subject, using profanity, 'dared' the officer to call for backup and continually stated he wanted to fight him," the release stated.
He exited the vehicle and allegedly took a fighting stance, according to the release. The officer ordered him back, but the teen moved closer, Losacco said.
At that point, the officer used pepper spray, which did not work, Losacco said.
After the policeman employed the pepper spray, the teen "punched the officer multiple times on the head and upper body," the release said.
The officer's glasses were knocked off during the alleged attack, but the four-year police veteran was not hurt.
He then used a Taser to subdue the teen, according to the sergeant.
"At the point where somebody with autism or not decided that he's going to assault or an attack an officer, the officer has the right, the obligation and the necessity to defend himself," Losacco said, explaining the policeman's actions.
The teen was taken to a hospital where he was medically cleared.
"I hope this never happens to any other child, or anybody else with special needs," a tearful Nevarez said.
It will be up to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office whether to bring any charges in the case.