SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – Michelle Hiles with the Autism Council of Utah said Summit County Deputies did exactly what they needed to do to help Connerjack Oswalt.
“They kept their distance. They talked with them. They invited him to sit in a warm car,” said Hiles.
Connerjack has autism. He was reported missing in California nearly 3 years ago.
Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said at the time deputies had talked to Connerjack on several occasions, but didn’t know his name. Martinez said they offered to help, but he always said no.
“He wasn’t violating the law. So we had no reason to detain him,” said Martinez.
For the last year or so, Utah law enforcement has been required to undergo training on how to respond to people with autism and other mental health disorders.
Hiles said we all need to keep an eye out for people like Connerjack who may need some help.
“We get in the hustle and bustle of life that we were running everywhere that we if we just looked around, we might see somebody like Connerjack, sitting somewhere or someone that needs that needs our help,” said Hiles.
Hiles said there are things we can watch for that could indicate someone has autism.
“Things that stand out, walking tiptoes, there’s a need, stimming, rocking back and forth, some hand flopping, maybe they’re not making eye contact with you. Maybe they’re not speaking,” said Hiles.
Martinez said the extra training his deputies undergo helped make Connerjack comfortable enough to provide a fingerprint scan, but character is often what saves lives.
“I’m honored and humbled by their tenacity, their empathy, their compassion, looking at beyond a warrant and seeing that there’s something there that they need to investigate further,” said Martinez.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office has a new website where you can provide information on a family member who has autism including if they’re non-verbal, extremely sensitive to light or sound, and what they respond well to.
The sheriff’s office keeps that information in a local database so they can better help your loved one if they are in crisis. For more on the site click here.