Person With Asperger's Who Made Viral Video With Service Dog Shot Dead by Police


Kayden Clark, a 24-year-old transgender man with Asperger’s syndrome, was shot dead by police, who were responding to a suicide call at his residence in Mesa, Arizona, on Thursday, reported ABC 15 Arizona. Last year Clark earned praise for sharing a YouTube video of himself being comforted by his dog, Samson, during a meltdown. Millions viewed the clip.

Update — Saturday Feb. 6 10:45 a.m. PST —  A previous version of this article misgendered Kayden Clark. The article has since been updated.

Clark’s mother Stacia told the New York Daily News officers were well aware of his special needs before entering the residence. “Before the police arrived [he] wasn’t posing a threat to the community at all,” said Stacia, who referred to Clark by his legal name, Danielle Jacobs. “And the police came into [his] own place. They shot and killed a 24-year-old autistic, mentally ill individual whom they had been familiar with and aware of [his] special needs.”

Detective Esteban Flores, of the Mesa Police Department, confirmed to AZ Family that officers responded to a suicide call at the same residence two years earlier. When officers made contact with Clark on Thursday, he told them he had a knife and was going to hurt himself, Flores told the news outlet. “When [he] made contact with them [he] approached [two officers] with the knife, extended it out, and they felt threatened,” Flores said, adding that they fired their duty weapons. The incident is currently under investigation.

“I talked to [him] last night and the night before and [he] seemed fine,” Stacia told the NY Daily News.

When Clark’s meltdown video first went viral, he told The Huffington Post, “When I have a meltdown, I often have self-injurious behavior and I often self-harm.” That video has since been made private.

“This tragedy highlights the increased need for first responder training to teach first responders to effectively interact with autistic and special needs individuals,” Dr. Julian Maha, founder and CEO of the autism nonprofit, Kulture City, told The Mighty. “The training will give them much needed tools to effectively communicate with autistic individuals, help keep both parties safe and hopefully prevent tragedies like these.”

Bryan Chandler, who runs the Facebook community group, Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness – Bryan’s Advocacy, echoed those sentiments when asked to comment on the story.

“Police education is essential to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again,” Chandler told The Mighty. “It is important for them to understand what a meltdown is and the extreme reactions that occur when one is on-going. They should be trained on how to support someone with autism when having a meltdown, and I believe I speak for most people when I say the following: ‘I do not expect their education to be perfect, but they should at least be trained on how autism affects us, however basic.’ Verbal communication is difficult for us and a bit of understanding would have gone a long way here… This situation is evidence that more awareness is needed.”

No law enforcement officials were injured in the incident, and the officers involved were placed on administrative leave, which is standard for officer-involved shooting situations, reported ABC 15 Arizona.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Asperger's Syndrome

What You Don't See in This Photo of My Son With Asperger's

The picture below was taken this past summer. My family and I decided to take a day trip to Virginia Beach to have a family day before school started. The young man in the picture is my oldest son, Aaron. The young lady in the picture is his girlfriend, Brittany. The younger gentleman standing in [...]

When a Nonverbal Child Stopped My Meltdown

I was fresh out of high school, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Just a couple years before, I had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I was also struggling with a phobia of bees. I wanted to get out in the world, but I wasn’t sure how to. I [...]

When People Had an Unexpected Reaction to My Asperger’s Diagnosis

As someone on the autism spectrum, one of the most common questions I hear is about how my diagnosis changed me. But the funny thing is that I have noticed more of a change in others. Growing up was confusing to me. For my whole life, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get [...]

Man With Asperger’s Explains How He Experiences the 5 Senses

Bryan Chandler, who runs the Facebook page Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness: Bryan’s Advocacy, wrote a detailed post about how sensory issues can affect those on the autism spectrum. Chandler has Asperger’s, and he hopes sharing his post will educate others and make them more understanding about the kinds of sensitivities people on the spectrum may have to food and touch, [...]