Kayden Clarke, 24, a Trans Man with Asperger’s was shot and killed by Mesa Police in Arizona. Since his death a few days ago, the internet has lit up with allies and activists calling for justice.
Police were called to Clarke’s home after neighbors had reported he was suicidal. Police reports say the officers fired when they saw Kayden approaching them with a knife. Police spokesperson for the Mesa Police Department said “[He] had one knife that we know of, [he] had something else we’re not sure what it was – the officers said it was dark in the room. When [he] made contact with them, [he] approached them with the knife, extended it out, and they felt threatened.”
Kayden’s mother spoke out, extremely upset at the officers’ conduct, saying “They shot and killed a 24 year old autistic, mentally ill individual whom they had been familiar with, and aware of [his] special needs.”
Clarke gained a following late last year from his videos on Youtube, which had been documenting his gender transition. (His channel has now been set to private following his death.) He had recently told his followers that his insurance would cover his access to gender transition materials (i.e. hormone replacement therapy, surgeries, etc.) He was an activist and advocate for folks with Asperger Syndrome/Autism – like himself. He even showcased his service dog, Samson in one of his videos that went viral – who played a big part in helping him cope with, and ease his meltdowns as well as preventing him from self-harming.
It’s time we stop calling the police when mentally ill folks are in crisis. We might not all know how to help someone, and that’s okay. Simply asking the person how you can help support them can work wonders. Even making a crisis plan with the person, so you know what to do and who can help in their time(s) of need. Often times folks just need re-direction and validation and someone to witness their pain. Autistic meltdowns are a medical event, and need to be met with understanding and patience.
Understand that calling police can result in enacting more trauma, forced institutionalization, and – like in this case – even death. Understand that ablesim and sanism are deadly. To police and institutions our disabilities, mental illnesses, and our bodies are deemed illegal.