Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
JOHNSTON, Iowa - A family in Johnston said they are outraged after police officers used a Taser gun to subdue their autistic son.
Investigators with the Johnston Police Department said John Pilmer, 15, presented a threat to public safety, and the use of the weapon was justified.
But, Pilmer's parents said officers could and should have done more to resolve the situation peacefully.
The incident happened just before 10 p.m. Friday at Wynnsong Theaters.
"Officers were called up there regarding two teenagers fighting in the lobby," Johnston Police Department Lt. Lynn Aswegan said.
But when Officer Cale McClain walked inside, authorities said he was attacked.
"The officer was immediately attacked. His Taser was knocked away from him, and his hand was broken during the altercation," Aswegan said.
Investigators said McClain tried desperately to subdue Pilmer.
"One of the youth's friends walks up to the officer (and) tells (him) the youth is 15 years old and is autistic," Aswegan said. "They told him 15 times to stop resisting. They told him nine times to calm down."
But investigators said Pilmer continued to fight, and four officers tried but failed to gain control, so they used a Taser gun to end the ordeal.
"I couldn't believe it," mother Jeri Pilmer said.
Jeri Pilmer received a frantic phone call from one of her son's friends.
"We told John's friend to tell the police he was autistic, and he was screaming it to the police while I was on the phone," Jeri Pilmer said.
Jeri Pilmer and her husband rushed to the theater.
"When we arrived, John was on the curb with handcuffs, rocking back and forth," Jeri Pilmer said.
Jeri Pilmer said officers should have called for mobile crisis units, and should have listened.
"Maybe first get on the phone to me and talk to me, so I could explain what they needed to do to calm down the situation, so the situation had not have gotten as escalated as it did," Jeri Pilmer said.
"That individual, whether he was autistic or not, was still a threat to himself and the public, and we needed to neutralize that threat, get him calmed down to the point where he was no longer a concern," Aswegan said.
Investigators said they have cellphone video of the incident but aren't releasing it to the public.
They did, however, show it to KCCI. It showed the teen screaming and thrashing as the officer tried to gain control. About three minutes into the recording, a young man did inform the officer that John Pilmer is autistic.
The teen is in juvenile detention, and he faces numerous charges, including assault.
John Pilmer's father was also arrested Friday night after being accused of threatening to use a Taser gun against the officers who took his son into custody.