The Burbank Police Department has released details of a July 8 traffic stop that resulted in an officer using pepper spray and a Taser to subdue a 16-year-old boy described by the agency as “combative.”
In a tearful interview with the Burbank Leader on Wednesday morning, Tawnya Nevarez, the teen’s mother, said she repeatedly warned the policeman that her son has autism and apologized for his unresponsiveness, the newspaper reported.
The encounter began about 4:25 p.m. in the area of Burbank Boulevard and Hollywood Way, where the unnamed officer pulled over a car because the front-seat passenger was not wearing a seatbelt, according to a news release from the department.
The teenager “told the officer he’d ‘forgot’ to put his seatbelt on,” the police statement said, and the driver, the boy’s mother, said “she was in a rush to get to her destination.”
The 16-year-old began arguing with both his mother and the officer, stating: “I want a personal room. Me and him. Hand to hand,” the news release said. According to the Police Department, as the officer was explaining that all occupants of the vehicle were required to wear a seatbelt, the teenager interrupted several times “with provocative and inflammatory” language.
In an effort to “deescalate” the situation, the policeman returned the woman’s driver’s license, issued an “advisal” instead of a citation and asked the passenger to put on his seatbelt, the statement said.
The boy “refused to so, telling the officer he would only do that when he walked away,” the department said, adding that the officer “took a step back from the vehicle, at which point the subject put on his seatbelt.”
The teen then told the officer he was going to “fight” him “right now,” removed his seatbelt and kicked open the car door, striking the policeman on his knees, according to the news release.
“The officer noticed the subject had wrapped his arm around his mother’s head and neck as she tried to keep him inside the car,” the statement continued. “The subject, using profanity, ‘dared’ the officer to call for backup and continually stated he wanted to fight him.”
After the passenger broke free from the woman and exited the vehicle, he “removed clothing, approached the officer and took a fighting stance,” the Police Department said. “He then advanced on the officer and, again using profanity, told the officer to pepper-spray him.”
According to the agency, the policeman pepper-sprayed the boy to no avail. “The subject punched the officer multiple times on the head and upper body, knocking his glasses off,” the news release said, adding that the officer then deployed his Taser.
The teenager was subsequently handcuffed as additional officers arrived at the scene, police said, and “no further force was involved in the detention.”
The boy was transported to a hospital, where he was medically cleared, and was then admitted to a mental health facility, according to the statement.
The incident, recorded by a digital audio recorder worn by the policeman, was being investigated by the department’s Juvenile Detail and the Critical Incident Review Board, the news release said. No charges were immediately announced.