16 y.o.'s mom took him to the ER for mental health help. He got assaulted by police instead

A surveillance video reveals a disturbing scene in front of a hospital ER in North Carolina when a teen with apparent mental health issues was assaulted by the people who were called to help.


Jessica Long took her 16-year-old to the ER when she became worried about his mental health state. He was angry when they arrived and didn't want to be there, so Long asked the hospital security to help get him into the building so he could be seen.

Getting an angry teen who is in the midst of a mental health crisis to do something they don't want to do is definitely a challenge. However, what transpired after the security guard was unsuccessful in getting him to go in is completely unacceptable.

In the surveillance video, you can see the teen is agitated as they try to convince him to go into the hospital. He pushes his mother and resists attempts by the security guard to restrain him. The guard shoves the teen at one point, which seems more like an emotional reaction than a reasonable attempt to restrain him, but that's only the beginning.

After the teen appears to calm down, he is walked back to the car by another security officer. The teen tries to grab his mother's arm at one point, but other than that, appears unthreatening. We can't hear what he says, but we can see a security officer come up to him from behind and throw him on the ground so hard his mouth bleeds. For the next five minutes, the two security officers pin him to the ground, attempting to restrain him.

"I was in shock! I didn't know what to do," Long told WBTV. "I was just kind of helpless to do much of anything."

Again, this is a teen having a mental health episode, whose mother brought him to the hospital for help.

There is often gray area in videos of police interactions with the public. We can't always assess what kind of threat an officer perceives in the moment, but there are times when there's no reasonable explanation for an officer's actions. What happened next, after the police arrived, is one of those times.

After the boy was restrained and had his hands cuffed behind him, the security officers sat him up on the curb. As a sheriff's deputy leaned toward him, the teen spat bloody saliva at him.

Now obviously, spitting at a police officer is not okay. But let's remember, this is a teen who had been taken to the hospital because he was having a mental health crisis. And he had blood in his mouth because he had had his face shoved into the pavement by security.

The deputy responded to the spitting by immediately punching the teen—who had his hands tied behind him—in the face, twice. Other officers intervened quickly and pulled the overreacting deputy away to calm him down.

www.youtube.com

There's no way to spin what we see in the video as anything other than an officer losing control on a mentally ill teenager. But that didn't stop Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam from saying that the incident wasn't a problem.

"Deputy Polson had a reaction to a felonious assault," Beam said. "Spitting in a law enforcement officer's face—spitting blood in a law enforcement officer's —is a felonious assault and he had a right to stop that assault from occurring."

A WBTV reporter said,"Your deputy punched a 16-year-old with his hands handcuffed behind his back, twice. Is that an appropriate use of force?"

"All I saw was once and he was pushing him back away," Beam responded.

Umm, did he see the same video we did? (The news report above shows the assault, but the entire surveillance video can be viewed in its entirety in this WBTV article.)

An executive at the hospital, Maureen Swick, defended how the hospital security guards handled the situation.

"The actions that the officers took to keep others safe and to keep him safe were appropriate," Swick said.

The teen was arrested that night and charged with felony assault on a law enforcement officer and multiple misdemeanors. He was taken to the hospital by a mother who wanted to get him help, and he ended up juvenile detention for eight days.

"The people that I thought were going to help, they did nothing but make it worse," Long said.

There's obviously something wrong when a teen is taken to the hospital for mental health reasons and ends up being assaulted by a cop. We need to insist that people charged with protecting citizens are either screened or trained well enough to not lose their cool and assault a mentally ill minor for spitting. We need to invest more resources into mental health so that we can hopefully avoid situations like this to begin with, or know better how to handle a behavioral issue stemming from mental illness. And we definitely need to make sure that people are held accountable when they violate codes of conduct and use excessive force, especially when someone is clearly in need of help.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
True

In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."