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Burbank Police Tasered And Pepper Sprayed An Autistic Teenager

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A routine traffic stop ended with an autistic teenager being tasered and pepper sprayed by Burbank police, who allege that the teen became combative and punched the responding officer in the head.

The incident, which took place last Friday afternoon, began when Tawnya Nevarez, the teen's mother, was pulled over because her son wasn't wearing a seatbelt. The New York Daily News reports that the autistic 16-year-old became agitated after the officer approached the car on the front passenger side, where the teen was seated. According to KTLA, Nevarez told the officer that her son was autistic.

"The son felt threatened by the tone of voice and the body movement of the officer and at some point he got out of the car and there was some interaction," Areva Martin, the family's lawyer, told the Daily News.

According to a press release from the Burbank Police Department, the officer tried to "deescalate and disengage from the situation," after the teen became agitated, returning Nevarez's driver's license to her and issuing a warning instead of a citation. Police allege that the teen then told the officer that he was going to "fight him now," and kicked the car door open before striking the officer in the knees.

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In their statement, BPD alleges that the teen continually advanced on the officer, necessitating the use of force:

The subject broke free from his mother and exited the vehicle. He removed clothing, approached the officer and took a fighting stance. He then advanced on the officer and, again using profanity, told the officer to pepper spray him. As the subject approached, the officer used his pepper spray, but it did not have an effect. The subject punched the officer multiple times on the head and upper body, knocking his glasses off. The officer then used his Taser to stop the subject’s combative behavior. The subject was then placed in handcuffs as additional officers arrived on-scene. No further force was involved in the detention.

Nevarez told the L.A. Times that her 14-year-old son and 3-year-old niece were in the car with her and her 16-year-old son, and that the 14-year-old was also pepper sprayed.

The autistic teen, who was medically cleared at a local hospital following the incident before being transported a mental health facility, will appear in court within 60 days on possible assault charges, according to KTLA.

"There's no reason that a routine traffic stop with a 16-year-old autistic kid should ever end with that kid on the ground being tased, being pepper-sprayed and having a seizure," the family's lawyer told KTLA.

"The bottom line is we have someone that attacked a police officer, the officer defended himself. It sounds like this man needs some help, and we are working to get him the help he needs through the processes we have available to us," Burbank police spokesman Sgt. Claudio Losacco said to KTLA.

"It was the worst moment of my life," Nevarez told reporters at a press conference.