9-year-old with autism arrested, accused of pouring bleach on parent’s face

Published: April 5, 2022 5:12 PM EDT
Updated: April 5, 2022 5:44 PM EDT

A 9-year-old boy was arrested after pouring bleach on his parent’s face.

A Cape Coral arrest report shows the incident happened on Friday when a parent went to pick up the child during a custody exchange.

The child, who is described as having high-functioning autism, did not want to leave with the parent, the arrest report said.

As the parent began to drive away, the boy began pulling the seatbelt to choke his parent before grabbing a bottle of bleach and pouring it over his parent’s head.

The victim, according to the report, had minor burn marks under their eyes and chest.

The victim told Cape Coral police they did not want to press charges.

The boy was transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center.

The Cape Coral Police Department stands by the arrest in order to avoid any escalation.

And experts said it’s a tough situation to be in.

The Cape Coral Police Department said this wasn’t the first call about the child, but it was their first time arresting him.

Anjali Van Drie, co-founder of Family Initiative, works with kids and young adults, who are autistic, and their families. Her non-profit also trains law enforcement agencies.

“We do see maladaptive behaviors or aggressive behaviors, destructive behaviors at times when they don’t have the language or the ability to communicate their wants and needs,” Van Drie said.

FGCU Professor Dave Thomas, a law enforcement expert, said arresting the child was the right move.

Thomas said the officers can’t minimize the child’s behavior because he has autism.

“It is a violent assault. And (the) potential to seriously injure the party with the bleach was way out of line,” Thomas said.

Thomas is also, inadvertently, an autism advocate.

His son has autism.

“It’s a learning process,” Thomas said. “It is learning what’s good, and what’s bad, rewarding behavior, good behavior, and then not rewarding bad behavior, so that you understand those differences.”

Thomas said he understands the challenges but he believes the child could benefit from being in the juvenile system.

“So how do they make sure that this doesn’t happen again? How do they ensure that this child gets the services that he needs? They have an opportunity to require that treatment plans be brought to the court, have an opportunity to talk to a therapist, there’s a lot of stuff that can go on that the public has no earthly idea. And it depends on what judge you get, and how that judge looks at this case,” Thomas said.

The parents told officers on scene that the child has a history of aggression but did not want to press charges,

The Cape Coral Police Department said they go through autism training once a year. And because the crime is a felony, they had to arrest the child.