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Starbucks employees called police on my biracial autistic son

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My son’s name is Aaron Williams and he is a 27 year old biracial autistic male with a number of health issues he’s being treated for at the
Cleveland Clinic. His doctor suggested he lose a few pounds for an upcoming liver surgery so my husband and I thought it would
be safe for him to walk at the Eastwood Mall in Niles Ohio.

He was there Tuesday, February 11, walking and generally hanging out in the main concourse when two police officers approached him and asked if he had been buying anything at the mall. He had and then they asked him
to step outside. They told him they received complaints.

When my son asked about what they said that the starbucks workers said that Aaron was making them feel very uncomfortable. They said that he’s been watching them. Aaron said that he’s been playing on his phone and looking at what he’d just purchased. The officer said that they weren’t asking Aaron to leave the mall, and he wasn’t in trouble but he had to leave the area where the workers were. The officer said that his presence was making them uncomfortable.

My son then asked to see a supervisor.

He then spoke to another office and he told them that he felt it was racially motivated. She said no it wasn’t. She just wanted to make it clear that he wasn’t in any trouble but had to leave that area because he was making the Starbucks workers uncomfortable.

I called mall security to file a complaint. The security officer said that “maybe he was making weird jesters” because of his autism and then questioned why was he at the mall by himself any way. When I explained that Aaron has high functioning autism and can drive a car, shop on his own, and doesn’t make “weird jesters” he said that my concerns were “silly” and hung up on me without taking my complaint.

This was a racially motivated attack on my sons civil liberty that left him scared, he felt targeted and now doesn’t feel safe to leave the house.

Diana Burns

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