Second Grade Boy Pepper Sprayed by Colorado Police in Class
Boy, 8, Cursed at Teachers and Threatened to Kill Them
By CLAYTON SANDELL and JESSICA HOPPER
April 6, 2011
Colorado police and school officials are defending a decision to pepper spray a second grade boy who threatened to kill his teachers.
Aidan Elliot seems like a typical video game loving 8 year old, but what happened in his Glennon Heights Elementary School on Feb. 28 was hardly typical.
"I kind of blow up a little," Aidan said. "I said I'm going to kill you once you get out of that room."
Aidan is in a class for kids with behavior problems. He became enraged, spitting and throwing chairs and even threatening teachers and students with a sharp piece of wood he held like a knife.
Aidan told "Good Morning America" that he regrets his behavior, but when asked if he meant to injure the teachers with the piece of wood, he said, "kind of."
"I was rowdy on the bus...They didn't let me do something I wanted to do. We needed to do stuff, but they wouldn't let me. They put me in a corner with chairs and they called my mom," he said. "It was really the teachers because I just got really upset with them."
The boy's mother, Mandy Elliot, is furious with school officials and police.
"I was angry. I didn't understand. I was on my way....Why didn't they talk to him. He was red, handcuffed, crying, screaming how much it burned," Mandy Elliot said.
Lakewood Police Officer Steve Davis said that when they arrived on the scene Aidan told them, "I will kill you mother effers," Davis said.
Teachers were so worried for their safety, they reportedly barricaded themselves in an adjacent office.
"He told the teachers the same thing...if they came out, they were going to die," Davis said.
Aidan's mother said that her son never behaves violently outside of school.
"I think there is a problem, but it's with school and Aidan," Mandy Elliot said. "It only happens at school. It doesn't happen at soccer. It doesn't happen at swimming. It doesn't happen with babysitters, with family members."
Elliot is filing a complaint against the police for pepper spraying her son.
"I think they should have approached him, tried to talk to him, even if it was from a distance. You talk to him and you find out what it is that's botherhing him as well. You don't just walk in, ask him to stop and then spray," Elliot said.
Police defended their decision.
"It was a situation that had to be diffused and it had to be done very quickly. No one went home injured that day," Davis said.
School officials told the Denver Post that they are seeing more elementary and pre-school students who are increasingly violent.
"As a district we've been very concerned about it," Polly Ortiz-Lutz, the school district's director of special education told the Denver Post.
School officials said that Aidan would be welcome back to the school if his behavior improves.
"That would be our hope and goal. I hope that he is getting the services he needs so that he is able to return," said Peg Kastberg from Jefferson County Public Schools.
Aidan's mother said that she's tried putting her son on medication to improve his behavior, but it didn't work.
Aidan said that he needs to work on cooling down his temper.
"I don't know how my future is going to be--rich, happy, good life road or bad, homeless, poor road," he said.
Grandfather of pepper-sprayed boy blames past 'trauma'
12:31 AM, Apr 8, 2011
WESTMINSTER - The grandfather of an 8-year-old boy who was pepper sprayed by Lakewood Police feels his grandson has been unfairly characterized as a "violent spoiled brat."
John, who asked 9NEWS not to disclose his last name, said his grandson Aidan experienced a painful and private "trauma" prior to 2009, that has since triggered angry outbursts at school.
"Something traumatic has happened that's caused the problems," he said, "and I can't really go into it right now. It's confidential and under investigation."
"That's not excusing his behavior. But that's a reason why he acts out," he said.
Aidan spends most weekends and holidays with his grandparents.
"I couldn't love him anymore if he was my son," John said. "His dad was in the military and was sent to Afghanistan. Basically I've been his dad for all that time."
John says he and his grandson have had a lot of fun times. He worries a recent violent incident will now overshadow his grandson Aidan.
Aidan's second grade teachers called police during a violent temper tantrum at Glennon Heights Elementary School in Lakewood on Feb. 22.
According to a Lakewood Police report, Aidan was threatening teachers with a piece of wood trim he ripped off the wall.
Lakewood police officers entered the classroom and ordered Aidan to "drop the stick." When he didn't comply, the officers pepper sprayed Aidan twice, handcuffed him, and removed him from the classroom.
"I'm not here to trash the Lakewood PD," John said. "I think they were just trying to do their job. I definitely don't agree with using the pepper spray on an 8-year-old."
John, a former police officer, keeps a detailed record of Aidan's behavior at home.
"His outbursts don't happen at home," he said, "but there's something about school that triggers a reaction."
Aidan's mother Mandy, whose last name 9NEWS has also chosen not to disclose, believes the Lakewood Police officers should have handled the situation differently. She says police were called on her son at school twice before, and both times the officers were able to talk to her son and calm him down.
"I'm sure what he was doing wasn't right, but he's 8 years old," Mandy said. "They walked in, asked him to drop the stick, and then sprayed him with the spray...I think it's excessive."
Lakewood Police spokesman Steve Davis defended the officers' decision to use pepper spray on the boy, calling it the safest option considering the circumstances.
"You've got teachers barricading themselves in a room. They are obviously frightened," Davis said. "I think they not only made the right choice, they made a great choice that day to use the pepper spray."
Aidan was placed on a "mental health hold" and was transferred to a school for children with behavioral issues.
His mother says Aidan is seeing a doctor, but has not been diagnosed with any mental illness and is not currently on any medication.
"It's hard," Mandy said. "Do you listen to what the teachers tell you? Or do you listen to your child?"
Aidan admits he has problems controlling his anger.
"Just kind of like whenever anybody upsets me," he said. "Like I just kind of want to tear them apart... I think it's not ever going to go away... It's just who I am."