A California woman is outraged after police officers responding to her teenage son's epileptic episode put him in handcuffs and tried to force him into a patrol car instead of calling an ambulance.
Fresno police said in a statement Tuesday that their internal affairs unit will investigate the incident on Thursday, during which it "received a 911 call from a family member of a 16-year-old male suffering from a medical episode inside a local fast-food restaurant."
"The family member stated that the 16-year-old was combative and harming himself or others until the requested ambulance could arrive," the statement said.
The City of Fresno's Office of Independent Review will also review officers' body camera video and the 911 call, some of which police released. The department said the video it released does not show anything more than cellphone video released to ABC affiliate KFSN of Fresno by the teen's mom.
But the department is looking through more body camera video and will release it Wednesday, the statement said.
The boy's mother, Lourdes Ponce, told KFSN that she had her daughter call 911 so paramedics would respond, not police.
"He was not hurting anybody. He was having a seizure," she said.
The officers did not respond correctly, she said. "He saw that my son was throwing up, and instead of helping him so that he wouldn't choke on his vomit, they had him on the ground in handcuffs."
Ponce's son is recovering from his epileptic attacks at a hospital, but he is having trouble responding to care because he is traumatized after the incident, the mother said.
In the 911 call, made from an El Pollo Loco restaurant, the boy's sister tells a dispatcher that her brother has been having seizures since the day before because he had been off his medication to undergo neurological testing.
"He's jerking," the sister says in the 911 call. She says she earlier gave him lorazepam, a drug used to treat seizure disorders.
Asked whether the teen is fighting, his sister tells the dispatcher: "He's not hurting anyone. He's trying to get out of the seizure."
"Paramedics are on the way, don't do CPR, hold onto him or put anything into his mouth," the dispatcher says.
"Yes, I know," the sister replies.
A little later, the sister reports that her brother has become "combative." The boy can be heard wailing in the background.
An officer arrives, according to the 911 call, and the sister informs him, "He has autism. He has epilepsy."
"The police officer is grabbing him and throwing him," the sister suddenly tells the dispatcher. "Hold on, hold on, look, this is how you hold him," she can be heard saying.
The video shows the same exchange as a police officer tries to put handcuffs on the teen in the restroom. The video reveals that the boy's mother is also there.
The teen resists, repeating, "I'm not hurting no one."
The officer then leads him outside to a patrol car. "Why am I going to jail?" the teen asks. "There's no reason for you to put me in handcuffs. Give me a good reason. I'm not hurting no one. I'm only hurting my damn self."
"I don't know how to control it," the teen says later.
"You're not going to jail. We're going to get you help and an ambulance," the officer says. But he tries to force the teenager into his patrol car. The teen resists as the officer pushes him through the door.
"You're hitting his head. No, he's hitting his head. He's going to have a seizure," the boy's sister says.
The boy is allowed out of the car and begins vomiting as more officers arrive. He asks for them to take the handcuffs off — "You can grab me, bro, there's not reason for you to put me in these" — and for the officers not to step on his legs.
"We don't want you to kick us," an officer responds. "I'm not going to kick you. I'm not that stupid," the teen says before complaining that keeping his handcuffed arms behind his back is hurting his shoulders.
When a supervisor arrives, an officer asks him, "Figured it was best to clear him, just in case, you understand?" An officer also tries to talk to the teen's mother.
"You came and you hit him in the head," the mother accuses the officer. "I asked for help. Not for you."