Grandmother responds to police actions after 10-yr-old autistic grandson handcuffed

Grandmother responds to police actions after 10-yr-old autistic grandson handcuffed
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 9:59 PM EDT
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NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - 10-year-old Kayden Strayhorn was handcuffed in the parking lot of the New Bern Mall back on July 30th after bystanders called police on him when they said they saw him hitting his mother while in their car.

Strayhorn is nonverbal autistic.

Now a little less than a month later, Strayhorn’s family is expressing more details attached to their frustration. Not only was Kayden handcuffed, but the family also says the 10-year-old had blood drawn for testing and was placed in hospital scrubs – all without their knowledge or consent.

A trip to the New Bern mall for Kayden Strayhorn usually includes a slice of pizza, but during one visit back on July 30th, his family says his favorite pizza place wasn’t open. Because Strayhorn has a nonverbal autism diagnosis, his grandmother, Adele Strayhorn, says he sometimes struggles to handle a change of routine, which can trigger emotional outbursts.

“The whole meltdown began because he associates things with places. When we take him to the mall, he knows that means pizza. This just happens to be on a Sunday. He doesn’t know the days of the week,” said Strayhorn.

When he gets really upset, Adele says it’s not unusual for him to get physical.

Kayden’s mother, Sasha Strayhorn, is who a bystander references on a dispatch call, saying she is being hurt by her son. She says police then handcuffed her son and took him to CarolinaEast Medical Center. There, Adele says Kayden was undressed and changed into hospital scrubs. She says he also had blood drawn by the hospital staff. All without the family’s knowledge or consent.

“We didn’t know where he was on my head to call people and they had to call people to find out where my grandson was and when I arrived at the hospital they would let me see it so he’s in the back already been undressed they’ve already drawn blood from him no parental consent no one there he’s around a bunch of strangers,” the boy’s grandmother said.

New Bern police said they would not comment on the situation. Mayor Jeffery Odham, says two things are needed: time to sort through all facts and evidence, and ultimately, accountability for all parties involved.

“What I will say is that I’ve heard calls for the police cam to be released and I agree with that I hope that the police cam can be released as soon as possible and make sure that everyone is held accountable as they should be I haven’t seen it personally I’m not trained in law enforcement I’m not training having to deal with an autistic individual,” said Odham.

“When someone’s in the community and they’re having a behavioral episode and they might harm someone else harm the environment I think the first responder’s first reaction is to stop that behavior. But in that instance also who am I responding to so observe the situation and try to get an idea of what’s going on but if you see some of the behaviors of stemming or talking or like sort of staring off into space or something like that how do we apply that in different disciplines and first responders are discipline that needs to understand how to apply that,” said Aces for Autism Dr. Amanda Randall.

The family and their lawyer say they reviewed the body cam footage from the scene on Wednesday.

Adele Strayhorn told WITN she understands first responders were doing what they could to control the situation, but she and her daughter’s legal representation still feel this could’ve been handled better.

“If this officer had approached this child and this family with compassion with understanding and with humanity this baby would not have spent more than an hour in handcuffs would not have been involuntarily committed. Questioned without her being present he was treated like a criminal that in its essence is the problem,” said Attorney Dawn Blagrove

It’s important to note that Sasha Strayhorn also works at CarolinaEast Medical Center where Kayden was taken by police.

She says she was told by law enforcement that Kayden was taken to the magistrate’s office, and that’s where she waited before learning he was at the hospital.

The family says their next steps are to get body camera footage from other officers who assisted in the response because the footage they saw has parts that don’t have sound or an obstructed view.