Police renew probe of attack on autistic teen runner at meet

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Police are renewing their investigation into an attack on an autistic boy during a cross-country meet, a city official said.

Democratic Syracuse council member Susan Boyle said Rochester police were expected to talk Monday with the mother of Chase Coleman, a 15-year-old who is unable to speak. The black Syracuse teenager was shoved to the ground by a white man he encountered during the meet on Oct. 14.

The Syracuse Post-Standard first reported over the weekend that Clarise Coleman questioned whether race factored in a decision not to charge 57-year-old Martin MacDonald with harassment.

A police report said MacDonald got out of his car, pushed Chase to the ground and yelled at him.

MacDonald told investigators he feared the boy would try to steal a purse from his wife, who was in the passenger seat of the car. A phone number for MacDonald was unavailable, and he couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Clarise Colemen told the newspaper if “that man” had been black and Chase had been white and that police report was filed “he’d have been in jail.”

“It’s wrong in so many ways,” Boyle told The Associated Press. “Remove race, and we still have a grown man who attacked a child in the street.”

Clarise Coleman said her son is unable to communicate his feelings but turned in his uniform and quit the running team after the meet.

She said running captured Chase’s interest three years ago after failed attempts to engage him in other sports and it was important for him to be part of the team. Chase typically ran behind other runners and was again when he entered an intersection with traffic and MacDonald stopped his car.

MacDonald told investigators Chase didn’t respond when he told him to get out of the road. Clarise Coleman told police her son is incapable of understanding anything MacDonald tried to tell him.

Boyle, who wrote a letter to local and state prosecutors on behalf of the Colemans, said Chase was in a vulnerable position, running on his own.

“He’s always with people watching him.” She said. “He’s used to people being kind to him.”

Republican Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said her office will act in the event of an arrest after the police investigation.

Boyle said the Coleman family is seeking only a charge of second-degree harassment, a violation punishable by up to 15 days in jail.

“I believe we’re going to see some justice,” she said.

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