A 16-year-old boy turned himself into Burbank police Friday, one week after the department says he charged at an officer.
Burbank police say it started with a routine traffic stop. An officer pulled over the boy's mother, Tawnya Nevarez, because her passenger - her 16-year-old son - wasn't wearing a seatbelt. According to police, the boy became belligerent and threatened the officer.
Police Sgt. Claudio Losacco says the boy deliberately slammed the car door into the officer's knees and exited the vehicle in a fighting stance, punched the officer in the face knocking off his glasses, and in the stomach with a "dare" that the officer call for back-up and asking to be pepper-sprayed.
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Losacco says when the pepper spray didn't work, the officer used a stun gun on the boy to subdue him.
But the boy's mother denies the department's narrative of the moment, claiming her son suffers from autism and did not know how to react to the officer.
"This has been a devastating experience seeing my child on the ground and being tased by a police officer," Navarez told NBC4. "Seeing him being arrested was the second-most worst thing for him. I hope this never happens to any other child or anyone else with special needs."
The family has hired an attorney to look into the case. Areva Martin says Burbank police needs additional training in how to deal with the mentally ill.
"It's not about your illness being a pass but it is about trained police officers and professional police officers knowing how to deal with individuals who have special needs," Martin said. "A person with special needs should not have a negative encounter with police simply because they don't know how to address them."
The boy faces three misdemeanor charges and one felony for the alleged attack, but Burbank police say in the juvenile justice system, the goal is not to punish the boy, but rather to help him get the mental health help he needs.
"The goal with these charges is not to prosecute this child,"Loscacco said. "It is not to incarcerate him or cause him further grief, it's to get him some services."
It will be up to the District Attorney's office as to whether charges will be filed. The boy could be forced into a mental health program if convicted.