Friday, June 14, 2024

Family outraged after a North Carolina police department arrest autistic child after meltdown over pizza


According to a North Carolina grandmother, her 10-year-old autistic nonverbal grandson was arrested by a New Bern, North Carolina, police officer on Sunday, July 29, after he had a meltdown about one of his favorite pizza places being closed.

Kayden Strayhorn’s grandmother, Adel Strayhorn, said her daughter Sasha Strayhorn and Kayden were at the Twin Rivers Mall in New Bern, North Carolina, around 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 29, when Kayden wanted pizza, but his favorite restaurant was closed. Adel said that Sasha attempted to explain that to Kayden. Kayden has trouble expressing himself because he is nonverbal, so he became physical—as most nonverbal children do, or what is known as a temper tantrum.

His expression comes out as frustration a lot, Adel said.

10-year-old Kayden Strayhorn

Adel said her grandson didn’t realize it was Sunday, and the pizza place he wanted was closed. She stated that Sasha informed him that they would find pizza elsewhere. While in the car, Kayden sat behind Sasha. Kayden, Adel said, began pulling his mother’s hair and shirt.

Adel said that her daughter sat there and tried to calm Kayden down, noting that this was not Kayden’s first tantrum.

My daughter was telling him to “stop,’let my hair go, Kayden,’ and ‘just calm down, baby,’ Adel said. My daughter was attempting to calm her son.

Adel stated that people were present, and she understood how they would perceive it.

One of the women who were watching called the cops, Adel said.

Kayden is still pulling his mother’s hair when the police show up. According to Adel, her daughter reported that a woman shouting at the police, “Get him off of her, get him off of her,” was standing nearby. She claimed that when the police arrived, Sasha informed them that her son had autism and asked them to leave them alone because they were heading home. However, the officers refused.

Instead, according to Adel, one officer, 27-year-old Michael John Zak, forcibly removes her 10-year-old autistic grandson from the vehicle, places him on the back of the car, orders him to put his hands behind his back, and then handcuffs him.

At this point, this is my problem, Adele said. Okay, you called the cops…okay I get it, it’s in a public place. When the cops get there and pulls him out of the car you should have talked with him because he’s calm at this point that you pulled him out.

Officer Michael Zak

Adel said Officer Zak didn’t need to take it as far as he did. According to her, Officer Zak then put her grandson in the back of a police car and went to speak with Sasha. Adel said the officers advised Sasha that to have her son involuntarily committed, she needed to go to the magistrate’s office and sign paperwork.

My daughter didn’t understand and the officer admitted that she didn’t understand, Adel said. He then went over it again with her.

Adel stated that Sasha told her that the officers said they would if she didn’t sign the paperwork. She claimed her daughter signed the paperwork, but she had no idea what she was signing due to her daughter’s intellectual disability. Adel said her daughter told her that they weren’t explaining anything but did mention “something about a hospital” and that they would hold Kayden until he could see a doctor.

While my daughter was sitting there they took my grandson away and he started having a tantrum, Adel said. Of course, he is going to be doing that when you trying to take him away from his mother and try to use it as an excuse for him having some type of problem. He’s autistic.

Adel said that while Sasha was still at the detention facility, she learned from someone that Kayden was being taken to the hospital. She said it was until she told Sasha where Kayden was because, Sasha was unaware that New Bern police had taken Kayden to the hospital. Adel claims that when she arrived at the hospital, she discovered that staff members had already changed Kayden’s clothes and taken blood without his parents’ permission.

Adel said she told Sasha to head to the hospital.

Again, my daughter has an intellectual disability, so she didn’t understand, Adel said. Why would my daughter still be sitting at the detention center if she understood? They knew my daughter didn’t understand and they took advantage of that.

When Sasha got to the hospital, neither she nor Adel was allowed to see Kayden. According to Adel, Sasha confronted Officer Zak at the hospital when they learned he put Kayden’s age as 12 in his report. Adel said that was false, and that no one had provided the officer with that information, and that her grandson is ten. 

Adel reported that police also claimed that Kayden had engaged in conversation with them, but they claimed this to be false. She said although her grandson cannot speak in complete sentences, he can say simple words like “mama” or “Mimi.” 

Despite being told they would be contacted, Adel said they had not received any communication from the New Bern Police Department.

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  1. Autistic meltdowns are not described as. Tantrum! They are not tantrums they are a meltdown and that is when an autistic child is overly stimulated or cannot regulate their own emotions. A tantrum is when a child is told no so they pitch a fit to get their way, and if the parent turns around and says yes you can have it to get them to stop their behaviors the tantrum stops immediately. Meltdowns do not stop when they are told yes, the meltdown continues so please make sure that when you’re writing stories that you’re writing the Right facts.. I’m an autistic mother, and there’s a huge difference between a tantrum and a meltdown.. but thank you so much for sharing the story and getting the awareness out because I’m about to do the exact same thing…

    • As a Mom/Caregiver of a 14 year old child my oldest son Jonah who is also on the Autism Spectrum who s also “Nonverbal”. The day to day routine of maintaining structure & consistency is very difficult & frustrating! To say the least!
      On top of those day to day challenges we also have to worry about “Police Officers” whom took a oath to Serve & Protect! Making poor judgment & lacking the ability to show support and practice much needed “sensitivity training”as it relates to any citizen experiencing an mental health crisis!! Something has to change!! As mom’s/caregivers we have enough on our plate each day as we try to provide. a safe environment where our children can thrive and we provide as much normalcy as possible. It saddens me to hear that New Bern Police Officers would lack Empathy once they learned about Kayden’s circumstances!.The situation could have ended up as a tragedy. My heart goes out to the family & I will continue to pray for resolution & peace for Kayden & family.
      God Bless You!! From a Mom who walks in your shoes!!



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Gerald Jackson
Gerald Jackson
Hi, my name is Gerald Jackson and I am 28-years-old. I was born and raised in Troy, Alabama. I currently reside in North Carolina. I am a Journalist, Influencer, Content Creator, and a Man of Faith! I don't shy away from the truth, always speak my mind, and before I take anything back, I'll add more to it. Follow me on my social media below to keep up with my personal life. LOL!

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