Melvindale cop cited for de-escalating encounter with autistic teen

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

MELVINDALE – Police Cpl. Matthew Furman received a citation at the Nov. 1 Public Safety Commission meeting for de-escalating a tense situation with an armed, agitated autistic teen boy and calming him.

Furman responded to a house in the 18800 block of Harman at 12:47 p.m. Oct. 26, where a 17-year-old autistic male was upset with his caretaker, who had left prior to the officer arriving, and then his mother, with whom he began arguing in front of Furman.

As the teen and his mother argued, the boy said he was going to the kitchen to get a knife, which he began waving around and moving toward Furman, who then called for backup.

The mother stepped between the two and calmed the teen enough to put down the knife. He then, however, began throwing silverware, then a drink, and lastly a chair at Furman, who kept him in the kitchen, and within sight of his mother while keeping the two physically separate.

Sgt. Patrick Easton arrived at the scene as the teen flipped over the kitchen table, and threw a second chair toward the officers.

Detectives Brandon Nolin and John Thompson arrived at the scene, and the teen began to calm down. He was then transported to Beaumont Hospital-Dearborn, where his mother arranged for mental health treatment admission.

Police Chief John Allen praised Furman for remaining calm, calling for backup and not rushing into action with the autistic young man.

“Corporal Furman calmed the situation down by not reacting, not going hands on, nor threatening to use a Taser or pepper spray,” Allen said, “and instead talked with the family and the autistic male, actually de-escalating the situation.”

Allen said the technique resolved the situation without anyone getting hurt, and Furman adhered to the motto that police officers are guardians of the community.

“Furman made sure everyone was safe during this tense situation,” Allen said. “I think he should be publicly praised for doing so.”

Easton said Furman remained calm while dodging items thrown at him and protecting the teen’s mother.

“Officers were able to talk the violent male down without any escalation of force by allowing the male to rage and vent and then calm down,” Easton said.

Easton said once the teen was calm, fire department rescue personnel were able to transport him to the hospital for treatment.

“I believe this is an example of when good police work goes right,” Easton said.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)