Police in Rochester, New York are continuing to investigate an attack on a black teenaged boy with autism during a cross country meet.
Chase Coleman, 15, was running in a race on Oct. 14 when two witnesses saw a white man shove him to the ground. Police later identified the suspect as Martin MacDonald, 57, who they say admitted to pushing the teen because he feared Coleman was going to mug his wife, according to a police report posted online by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Rochester City Court Judge Caroline Morrison denied Rochester police’s request for an arrest warrant for MacDonald, but the department told The Huffington Post Monday that they are still pursuing the case.
“At this time, the Rochester Police Department is working in conjunction with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office and the family of the victim to determine the next steps in this investigation,” read a statement from the department.
The incident, originally reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard, has since gained national attention. Though some outlets reported earlier this week that the department was “renewing” or “revisiting” the investigation, police spokeswoman Jacqueline Shuman clarified to HuffPost on Tuesday that the Rochester Police Department never closed it in the first place.
Chase’s mother, Clarise Coleman, told the Washington Post that she became worried during the race when her son, who is largely nonverbal, didn’t appear coming over a hill long after the other runners had passed.
When she went to look for her son, a woman told her that she had just seen her son and a man had assaulted him. Two witnesses said they saw a white man — later identified as Martin MacDonald — get out of his car and shove the teen to the ground.
“I see a grown man, who is quite tall and fairly heavy . . . exit the vehicle and give this young man a shove that puts him back 10 feet and flat on his butt,” Kris Van Metter, who witnessed the incident from his bike, told the Syracuse Post-Standard. “Like, just shoved him across the road. The kid didn’t seem to be doing anything but standing there, obviously had nothing in his hands, and weighed all of 130 pounds. This guy was easily twice that.”
Coleman told the outlet that she believes her son became confused, went off the course, and did not understand MacDonald’s requests to move out of the road.
MacDonald had left the scene by the time Rochester police arrived, according to a police report. However, a deputy with Monroe County Sheriff’s Department located and interviewed MacDonald at the request of Rochester PD, sheriff’s spokesman John Helfer told HuffPost.
According to the police report, MacDonald told the deputy that he pushed the teen to the ground because he feared the boy was going to mug his wife — who he says was sitting in the car - and steal her purse. MacDonald also allegedly said “some youths” had broken into his car recently, which is what put the idea into his mind.
Since Chase’s verbal communication skills are extremely limited, he is unable to provide his side of the story - both in terms of what happened, and how the aftermath is affecting him emotionally.
Coleman told the Washington Post that her son, who has participated in cross country for two years, lost interest in running after the incident. He ultimately turned in his uniform to his coach.
No one answered phone calls that HuffPost made to the office of Rochester city court judge Caroline Morrison, and she declined to comment when contacted by other outlets. But Coleman finds it hard to believe that race wasn’t a factor in the decision to deny an arrest warrant for MacDonald.
“If that man had been black and Chase had been white, and that [police] report went in, he’d have been in jail,’’ she told Syracuse.com.