Man with Autism Shot and Possibly Paralyzed After Encounter with Law Enforcement

April 19, 2021

Family Maintains that Deputies Had Knowledge of His Condition

Isaias Cervantes, a 25-year-old Cudahy man with autism, recently experienced a mental health crisis at home. His family needed assistance managing his behaviors, which may have involved assaulting a family member.  They called 911 for help. According to Cervantes’ sister and the family attorney, the Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who responded to the situation were told of Isaias’ autism diagnosis and also informed that he was hard of hearing. Despite these warnings, the encounter with law enforcement quickly escalated. Isaias Cervantes was shot by one of the deputies during a struggle. His injuries may leave him paralyzed for life. The terrible outcome of Cervantes’ mental health crisis has resulted in several different responses from the community. Demonstrations were sparked in front of the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles calling for “Justice for Isaias.” Additionally, the Cudahy City Council has called for independent investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the California Attorney General to examine what occurred during the incident. Several council members stated that they feel the Sheriff’s department has failed Cervantes’ family. A press release was later issued by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in response to the shooting. It described a family disturbance where a man “attacked one of the deputies gouging at his eyes while attempting to disarm him” and was subsequently shot. The press release asserted that Sheriff’s detectives are currently investigating the incident. However, what is unclear is why the sheriff’s Mental Health Evaluation Team (MET) was not involved at the Cervantes’ home.  Typically, in situations like the one that occurred with Isaias, the MET sends out a deputy and a licensed mental health clinician to work as a pair to deescalate a mental health situation and avoid using force. The  Isaias Cervantes situation has disturbed many advocates and parents of individuals with developmental and mental disabilities. They feel terrified that reaching out to the police or calling 911 for assistance with their loved one could end up in disaster. Currently, there is a call from Disability Voices United for unarmed mental health experts to respond to calls involving mental health issues instead of the police, which would hopefully cut down on tragedies like Isaias Cervantes experienced. 

Original Story 

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