Crime

Autistic 14-year-old tased in the back by sheriff’s deputy. Family settles lawsuit

The family of an autistic teenager who was shot in the back with a sheriff’s deputy’s stun gun has settled their lawsuit against Pierce County for $185,000.

Rory and Stacie Walley filed the lawsuit in July in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, on behalf of their son, identified in the complaint as B.W.

He was a 14-year-old student in Bethel High School’s Emotional Behavioral Disorder Program when the incident happened Sept. 28, 2016.

“I applaud the county for coming to the table early and resolving it in a way that makes a meaningful apology to the family,” said attorney Nathan Roberts, who represented the family.

He said the settlement includes agreements that the Sheriff’s Department provide additional training to deputies, such as about de-escalation, and that deputies take part in training the school district offers for how school resource officers should interact with special needs students.

“We will work with the Autistic Community and explore ways to train deputies on our contacts with all individuals with developmental disabilities,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said in a statement Friday.

The family contended B.W. was not armed or threatening anyone when Deputy David Sutherland shot him in the back with the stun gun, without warning, as the teen walked away.

According to the lawsuit, the boy had started walking around at the school after a disagreement with a teacher, which is what he’d been taught to do when he was upset.

Sutherland, who has been with the department for more than 17 years and was named in the suit, gave this account in his police report narrative:

He was called to the school to help with a student who was running around, trying to start fights.

Staff members reported B.W. had assaulted another student and was not listening to directions. He’d been walking around for about 45 minutes, and staff members had been trying to de-escalate the situation without success, the narrative says.

Sutherland said he feared B.W. might hurt someone, and that he told the teen to stop, or he’d be tased. When the boy didn’t stop, the deputy used the stun gun.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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