An in-event attack on a non-verbal autistic cross country runner at a school in Western New York has brought claims of racism by the African-American victim’s family after his white attacker was not charged despite admitting the incident.
As reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard, Corcoran freshman Chase Coleman was shoved to the ground and told, “get out of here,” by a middle-aged man he had never met during a race on October 14. He left the Corcoran team days later, leading his concerned parents to pursue second-degree harassment charges against 57-year-old Martin MacDonald. Those charges were denied by Rochester City Court Judge Caroline Morrison, without any further explanation, leading Coleman’s parents to express concern that their son was not being treated fairly simply because he is black.
Morrison refused to comment to Gannett partner, the Democrat and Chronicle.
“If that man had been black and Chase had been white, and that (police) report went in, he’d have been in jail,” Clarice Coleman, Chase Coleman’s mother, told the Post-Standard. “I just want to know what’s in (MacDonald’s) head.”
Eyewitness accounts of the incident paint a troubling picture of both MacDonald’s motivation and actions:
MacDonald admitted pushing Chase to the ground, police said. Asked why, he told an officer “he thought Chase was going to mug his wife and take her purse,” according to the police report.
“MacDonald’s wife was sitting in the front passenger seat at the time of the incident,” the officer noted. …
Kris Van Metter, 42, was in Rochester visiting relatives that weekend and went for a bicycle ride in Cobb’s Hill Park. Reached by phone Friday in Washington, D.C., Van Metter said he had just finished riding when he saw a large middle-aged man — later identified by police as MacDonald — get out of his car and yell at Chase for several minutes.
“I see a grown man, who is quite tall and fairly heavy . . . exit the vehicle and give this young man a shove that puts him back 10 feet and flat on his butt,” Van Metter said. “Like, just shoved him across the road. The kid didn’t seem to be doing anything but standing there, obviously had nothing in his hands, and weighed all of 130 pounds. This guy (MacDonald) was easily twice that.”
Responding to mounting outcry over the incident, Rochester police on Monday ramped up an investigation into the matter and collected depositions from Coleman’s mother and witnesses, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
MacDonald did not return messages for comment left by the Democrat and Chronicle, and a woman who answered the phone at his home Sunday declined to comment. No one answered the door at his home on Monday.
Coleman’s mother said Rochester police visited her Monday in Syracuse to take a deposition as to her son’s diagnosis, and that police were contacting the witnesses cited in the police report. She said police explained that they were collecting depositions to bolster her case against MacDonald and that the sworn statements were missing from the paperwork police initially filed with the court.
Coleman described Chase as being autistic and that he has been specifically diagnosed “PDD-NOS,” which stands for pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified. She said Chase also suffers from echolalia, which causes him to sometimes repeat people who speak to him.
Rochester police spokeswoman Jacqueline Shuman said Monday that the department was working in conjunction with the District Attorney’s Office and the Coleman family to determine the next steps in the investigation.
Doorley said Monday in a prepared statement that her office would begin its prosecution upon arrest, and that it was up to the courts to determine whether an arrest would be made.
“In the meantime,” her statement concluded, “we ask for your patience and understanding in knowing that we are obligated, as are the police, to follow the process and procedures established by the law.”