Ninth grader Chase Coleman often places last in his Syracuse, New York, high school’s cross-country meets, but on Oct. 14, the autistic teen’s pace wasn’t to blame for his late arrival— he was allegedly attacked by a stranger in a car during the race.
Chase, 15, was wearing his maroon uniform with a race number pinned to it when the incident occurred, Syracuse.com reported. According to eyewitnesses, Martin MacDonald, 57, stopped his car a few feet away from Chase, who was in the middle of the road and may have been confused about where to run.
Police said MacDonald admitted to pushing the Corcoran High School student down and, when asked why, told an officer “he thought Chase was going to mug his wife and take her purse,” according to the police report. Witnesses said the man yelled "get out of here" before driving off.
Chase’s mother, Clarise Coleman, fears racism is to blame for the lack of charges against MacDonald, who is white. Her son is non-verbal.
"If that man had been black and Chase had been white, and that (police) report went in, he'd have been in jail,'' Coleman said.
Witness Kris Van Metter said he had just finished riding his bike when he saw the man, later identified as MacDonald, get out of his car and yell at the student.
"I see a grown man, who is quite tall and fairly heavy . . . exit the vehicle and give this young man a shove that puts him back 10 feet and flat on his butt,'' Van Metter told Syracuse.com. "Like, just shoved him across the road. The kid didn't seem to be doing anything but standing there, obviously had nothing in his hands, and weighed all of 130 pounds. This guy (MacDonald) was easily twice that."
Chase was not physically hurt in the incident. A few days after the attack, he handed his uniform to his coach and quit the team. The teen picked up the sport three years ago and his mother told Syracuse.com that she was grateful he finally found a sport he liked and that the team camaraderie was important for a kid who cannot hold a simple conversation.
Chase requires one-on-one guidance for most activities.
"He looks to adults to assist him, because that's what he's used to,'' Coleman told Syracuse.com.