Local officer’s peaceful de-escalation of tense situation leads to friendship with autistic man

Local

BAINBRIDGE, Pa. (WHTM) — Amidst national scrutiny surrounding law enforcement, a local police officer is getting attention for all of the right reasons.

20-year-old Max Turpin recently got a brand new bike donated to him by the charity Variety. It’s a special custom-made bike because Max is autistic.

Over the weekend he took his new wheels for a spin alongside his mom and grandparents. However, it didn’t end as planned.

His parents Jessica and Lorenzo Falcone say he started to ride into a dangerous spot. When Jessica told him to turn around he began to get upset.

“It was getting to the point where it wasn’t safe. He became agitated with me for telling him no,” Jessica Falcone said.

That’s when Officer Carlos Rodriguez with the Susquehanna Regional Police Department showed up, by accident.

“Had it not been for me turning on the wrong street when I meant to go down a different street to go down to the riverfront, I would’ve never met him,” Rodriguez said.

At first it didn’t go well and Max started hitting Officer Rodriguez.

“We’re like ‘oh man this is like an autistic parent’s worst fear’. He would’ve been well within his rights as an officer to handcuff him or do something else with him,” Lorenzo Falcone said.

“Because Max is an adult, and we’ve been telling him that. He’s an adult and you’re striking an officer. But when he’s in meltdown, he’s autistic. He doesn’t understand, he doesn’t know.” Jessica Falcone said.

Instead, he calmly steered him back on track.

“If I would’ve reacted angrily it just would’ve escalated things even further and it could’ve been a totally different outcome,” Rodriguez said.

He even helped Max ride all the way home.

“Actually gave me a workout, because I had to run behind him,” Rodriguez said. “So it was a good time.”

Their unlikely bond shows that leading with kindness makes everyone’s ride through life a little smoother.

“Behind the badge, behind the uniform we’re just like everyone else,” Rodriguez said.

“It means a lot to people that do have an autistic child that someone is understanding enough and compassionate enough and honestly handles it in the perfect way,” Lorenzo Falcone said.

April is Autism Awareness Month and Susquehanna Regional officers are wearing special patches to recognize it. Those are available for anyone to buy for $10 apiece. The money raised goes to The Tommy Foundation.

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