People with disabilities twice as likely to be victims of crime
Dec. 2 – In a developing story, at least 14 people are dead and 17 others are wounded in a California shooting on the grounds of the Inland Regional Center, which serves people with developmental disabilities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“We hope for the best for the victims of violence in San Bernardino, California,” Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility said. “Our hearts and prayers are with them and their families.”
With nearly 670 employees, the Inland Regional Center serves those with developmental disabilities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to the center’s Facebook page.
The center has provided services to more than 30,200 people with developmental disabilities and their families for at least 40 years. The nonprofit organization serves children, adults and seniors.
People with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of crime than people without disabilities. In addition, they are more likely to be victims of police attacks.
“Whether Americans with disabilities are under verbal attack by GOP frontrunner Donald Trump or literal physical attack in San Bernardino, Calif. or repeatedly are victims of police violence, we have a long way to go in America before people with disabilities can be safe, respected and have the same opportunities as everyone else,” Mizrahi added.
In 2013, which are the most recent statistics available and were released in 2015, the rate of violent crime against people with disabilities was more than twice the rate for people without disabilities, while people with disabilities between 12-15 and 35-49 were three times more likely to be victims of violent crimes.
In the most recent example, which is still unfolding today, shooters killed or injured more than 30 victims inside the Inland Regional Center, which serves more than 30,000 people with developmental disabilities.
In August, police accused a man of attempted felony murder, sexual battery of a mentally incapacitated person, kidnapping and aggravated battery of a woman with intellectual disabilities in Florida. The man, described as a ‘friend’ of the victim, currently awaits trial.
In July, a blind man was robbed and beaten by two men in Alabama. The victim suffered cuts, scratches and a possible broken nose.
Last year, an Oregon mother murdered her six-year-old son with autism. Media reports focused on the mother’s justification that her son’s autism was too much of a burden for her. Her attorney has argued an account of intense hardship as an excuse for murder, describing a situation so brutal that it seemed a mercy for a six-year-old boy to die.
People with disabilities also are more likely to be victims of police attacks. A Supreme Court amicus brief filed by the ACLU in San Francisco v. Sheehan stated, “a review of available reports indicates that at least half of the estimated 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems.”
While the vast majority of officers only want to protect the community they patrol, officers not properly trained in dealing with people with disabilities are bound to make mistakes.
A deaf Texas man with mental illness was shot and killed by police when he did not understand paramedic or officer intentions. Paramedics originally were called when a passerby noticed the man stumbling and disoriented in the street. The paramedics noted the man was verbally unresponsive, but pulled a knife when they approached him. Officers arrived and after a short confrontation, they shot him.
A man with Down syndrome died after he stayed for a second showing of a movie while his caregiver retrieved the car. An off duty police officer, moonlighting as a security guard, forcibly removed him from his seat for not producing a ticket and in doing so, asphyxiated him.
A 15-year-old boy with autism was fatally shot in his home by police. Officers were called to intervene in an argument between the boy and his father. The boy did not want to go to school that day and had possession of a knife. After the boy caused a flesh wound on one of the officer’s arm, the boy was shot once in the arm and once in the head.
This does not even take into account people with other disabilities who were improperly handled by police, due to insufficient officer training. For example, police may think people with epilepsy, diabetes, cerebral palsy or disabilities resulting from a stroke are instead intoxicated or using drugs – and therefore subjected to unnecessary force by officers.