Mother calls out police in Mascouche, Que., for using stun gun on non-verbal son with autism

Marie Ismé says her son Brandon-Lee Paris, who has autism and is non-verbal, has never been violent toward police. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Marie Ismé says her son Brandon-Lee Paris, who has autism and is non-verbal, has never been violent toward police. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

When Marie Ismé gets a call from police about her son, she tries to stay calm.

He's an 18-year-old with autism who is also non-verbal. On several occasions, he has run away from the rehabilitation centre he goes to north of Montreal.

But Ismé received a call on Wednesday that left her floored.

Her son had run away again, but this time instead of being told he was found safe and brought back to the day centre, police in Mascouche, Que., told her they had to use a stun gun to neutralize him.

"I was devastated. I couldn't even talk," Ismé told reporters near her home on Thursday while holding back tears.

Brandon-Lee Paris was taken to hospital but did not suffer any serious injuries.

His mother is speaking out because she's worried about what police would do if they have another run-in with either her son or another person with a developmental disability.

"What if one day it's not the Taser gun?..." she said. "[What if] they take the first weapon that's under their hand and shoot him, you know? It's really scary."

Ismé said she can't imagine why the stun gun was necessary, since police have dealt with her son before and are aware that he is on the autism spectrum and non-verbal.

She plans to file a complaint with the police ethics commission.

"Yes, that's for sure. This is unacceptable," she said. "I told them, 'You know Brandon, he's never been aggressive to you guys, he always co-operates with you guys, so I don't know why you had the need to use the Taser gun.'"

She also wonders if the situation would have unfolded differently if her son wasn't Black.

Radio-Canada
Radio-Canada

Teen entered other people's homes after fleeing, police say

According to police, the teenager twice ran away from La Myriade, a government-run centre for people with developmental disabilities. In both cases, police say Paris entered other people's homes while officers were trying to catch up to him.

The Taser was used during the second police intervention.

"There was a pursuit to try to get him under control. They weren't able to. He went into a home once again and it's at that point that a police officer had to intervene and use his conducted electrical weapon," said Martin St. Pierre, an officer who spoke on behalf of the Mascouche police force on Thursday.

St. Pierre confirmed that the police force has dealt with the teenager several times before, enough that officers know him on a first-name basis.

"Like any case with the use of force, this case will be reviewed again," he said.

When told about the version of events police gave to reporters, the mother said she is not aware of where the arrest happened and, since Paris is non-verbal, he is unable to give his side of the story.

Ismé also said she's often questioned why staff at the centre always call the police when her son leaves the building.

CBC News asked the local health authority for the Lanaudière region that oversees La Myriade if it's standard procedure to call police each time one of its clients leaves the facility. The health authority deferred all questions about what happened to local police.

"On our end, we are in contact with the mother," said spokesperson Pascale Lamy.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC
Kwabena Oduro/CBC

'One of their worst nightmares'

According to Fo Niemi, the executive director for the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), the police use of the stun gun in this case highlights the need for officers to be better trained to deal with people who have developmental disabilities.

Niemi says for many parents of children or young adults on the autism spectrum, a run-in with police is "one of their worst nightmares."

"We work with with a lot of parents of children with autism or even young autistic adults," said Niemi.

"There's always a fear that an untrained police officer will not understand the behaviours of autistic children or people or they may consider their conduct to either be dangerous or, shall we say, threatening to others."

The mother is worried the incident will make her son scared of police moving forward, which could make future run-ins with law enforcement even more complex — or even dangerous.