Chase Coleman, a 15-year-old Black autistic teen from Syracuse, New York, loved running on his high school’s cross-country team until a physical attack on October 14 quelled his passion. According to witness accounts and a police report obtained by The Washington Post, Chase was running in the middle of the road when Martin MacDonald, a White 57-year-old man, got out of his car, pushed Chase to the ground and yelled, “Get out of here.”
Chase’s mother, Clarise Coleman, told The Post she became anxious when she didn’t see her son cross the finish line. Coleman said she usually scouts the running trails beforehand, pointing out areas where he may get lost or turned around.
As she ran the trail looking for Chase, she discovered a woman who pointed her in the direction of a runner who was assaulted. The victim turned out to be Chase.
A cyclist who helped him after the attack gave Coleman the grueling details, confirming her worst fears. When she asked Chase where he was hurt, he responded, “back,” The Post writes.
“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, the cyclist witness, said to 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 was easily twice that,” he continued.
Syracuse.com reports that when police questioned MacDonald, he told an officer, “He thought Chase was going to mug his wife and take her purse.” According to the outlet, MacDonald told investigators that his car was recently broken into by a group of Black youths.
Coleman believes MacDonald’s claims are preposterous. Since Chase is non-verbal, there’s no way he could have been threatening, she said.
“I said, impossible. That’s a lie. Chase don’t even know how to defend himself. What? He can barely ride a bike,” Coleman said. “[Chase] was in a uniform. He had a number pinned to him. How did you think that he was out trolling to steal your car?”
The alleged assault shook Chase and his family to their core. Just days after the incident, Chase, a freshman at Corcoran High School, refused to go to practice and ultimately turned in his uniform. His passion for running, honed since the seventh grade, is dead.
Coleman is convinced the attack was racially motivated and wants justice for her son. But Caroline Morrison, a Black Rochester City Court judge, recently denied the Colemans’ warrant request and second-degree harassment charge.
Syracuse city councilor Susan Boyle wrote a letter to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, asking for an explanation regarding Morrison’s decision after reading the Colemans’ plea for help on Facebook.
Coleman says she doesn’t know what to do to rekindle her son’s spirit. “We just keep apologizing to him that happened. Especially me. I kept apologizing to him that I couldn’t keep him safe.” she said.