RCMP — Teen in Edmonton traumatized after being arrested

Autistic teen in Edmonton traumatized after being arrested at a playground by RCMP


Ryley holds hands with his mother as they walk through a park near their Edmonton home.

The Edmonton teenager, who has autism, was arrested at a St. Albert playground earlier this month by RCMP. Still three weeks later, the boy’s parents say he remains traumatized by his encounter with police.

Ryley, 16, was visiting his grandparents house in St. Albert on Oct. 2, and was playing in a park behind their house, when he was detained by police, who believed he was a man impaired by drugs. RCMP took him into police custody over concerns for his well-being and the safety of others, after receiving multiple 911 calls about a man who was “exhibiting erratic behaviour.”

An hour later, in police custody, the 16-year-old began hurting himself and was taken to hospital by EMS. Unaware of his arrest the teen’s family called the RCMP about a missing person, and that is when the police were able to identify who they had arrested.

“It happened so quick. And I didn’t know if he was kidnapped. I didn’t know if something had happened to him. He was just gone,” Ryley’s mother, Laura Hawthorne said.

“It was the scariest moment of my life. They said he was apprehended. I still don’t understand why.”

Bruce Petherick of Autism Canada said, “when dealing with non-verbal, it’s so important to have that in the back of your mind ‘why is this person not responding?’ Perhaps they cannot.”

Petherick says he sympathizes with both the family and the police.

“No autistic person should have to go through this, especially if they are non-verbal, that needs to be stated. However, I do have some sympathy for the RCMP, or police in this matter, because they get these calls, they come in knowing nothing.”

Ryley is non-verbal and functions at the level of a seven-year-old. Ryley’s mother said he has been changed by the hours he spent in custody. He is anxious and this had led to major setbacks in his development.

Ryley’s father, Aaron Krause, said his son now clings to his parents and has been robbed of his hard-won independence.


Ryley was arrested at this playground, behind Albert Lacombe school in St. Albert, on Oct. 2.

Ryley was released from hospital with soft-tissue injuries to his head, face, back and wrists. Ryley has never harmed himself before, his mother said.

“It’s every autism parent’s worst nightmare,” Ryley’s father said. “If you talk to parents who have children that have autism, they’re going tell you that their biggest fear is that their child is going to be misinterpreted, and that when they are misinterpreted, that it could lead to their harm in some way.”

Krause and Hawthorne hope the arrest of their son can demonstrate the need for empathy towards people whose brain works differently from what is considered typical, as well as more community awareness.

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