Disabled Virginia Man Dies After Police Encounter
ANNADALE, Va. (WUSA9) -- Several investigations are underway into the death of a disabled man who died after a scuffle with a Fairfax County police officer on Wednesday.
The altercation happened in Annandale near Round Tree Park.
"This kind of thing should not happen," said Roger Deeshaies, CEO of St. John's Community Services, which is the organization that was caring for Paul Gianelos.
Family members of Paul Gianelos say he was profoundly autistic. They say he could read, but never spoke a word in his entire 45 year life. They are angry, and they want answers. On advice of legal counsel, they declined to be interviewed on camera, but they did say that there was a plan in place that should have prevented what happened and kept Paul safe.
Gianelos lived at a special needs group home a few blocks away from his elderly mother in Annandale. On Wednesday, he was at Round Tree Park on Annandale Road, eating lunch with his group from St. John's Community Services.
Deshaies says Gianelos wandered away, and when group leaders realized he was gone, they called police.
Fairfax police say a 20-year veteran officer with crisis intervention training, spotted
Gianelos along Annandale Road, about a mile from the park. Police say the officer tried to talk him into coming back to the group home outing. Gianelos apparently refused, and police say he became combative and began to struggle with the officer. Gianelos was handcuffed, and fell, hitting his head. Rescue crews were called and police say when Gianelos was being transported, he went into cardiac arrest and died.
One of Gianelos's family members said Paul would have happily gone with anyone who offered something as simple as a Coke. No force was needed, they said.
"We are strongly committed to finding out what occurred. We need to learn from it and make sure corrective action is taken," said Deshaies. He told WUSA9 that the staff at St. John's is devastated and that grief counselors have been brought in to help.
The family and police are waiting for the results of an autopsy.
Fairfax County Police officials say they will release the officer's name within the next few days. The department is conducting two investigations, one criminal and one through Internal