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Video: Kid wields stick, police use pepper spray

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    >> grader pepper sprayed by police after he threatened teacherers. we'll talk to that young boy and his mom in a moment. first kerry sanders is in lakewood, colorado, outside denver with details. good morning, kerry.

    >> reporter: good morning, meredith. this is the sort of pepper spray they used against aidan , the same sort they use against any suspect. the only difference here, this was an 8-year-old 2nd grader.

    >> this is my room. i'm a fan of spider-man and like the other superheroes.

    >> reporter: at home 8 -year-old aidan seems like most kids his age.

    >> hi!

    >> reporter: police say on february 22nd the 2nd grader went into a violent rage in his classroom. he started throwing chairs at two teachers who locked themselves in an office and called police while aidan reportedly screamed, if you come out, you're gonna die. police say he threw a tv cart and tore wood trim from the walls.

    >> they tried to deescalate the behavior that occurred. he was swinging a stick. he was using it as a weapon. he was violent. he was verbal. he was abusive.

    >> i wanted to make something sharp for like if they came out because i was so mad at them. i was going to try to whack them with it.

    >> the officers told him to drop it. he wouldn't.

    >> reporter: so police pepper sprayed him, twice.

    >> of course, it burned my eyes so i couldn't see.

    >> our officers had to do something to diffuse the situation in a hurry before someone was hurt.

    >> reporter: aidan has a history of behavior problems. this was his third run-in with police at school , but aidan 's mom says police should have talked him down as they had before.

    >> i think it's excessive. i think that they could have tried to talk to him for five, ten minutes to see if they could get him to calm down, but it doesn't seem like that's what they did.

    >> the officers made a great choice that day in choosing the pepper spray .

    >> reporter: keep in mind this is the same school district as the 1999 columbine high school massacre that left 15 dead.

    >> i also now kind of collect these things.

    >> reporter: even aidan admits he's got anger issues.

    >> i kind of deserved it, but --

    >> reporter: aidan wants to be a marine but has concerns.

    >> when i also behave like that i'm thinking my future is going to turn around into the homeless, bad thing way.

    >> reporter: aidan -- no charges were filed at all. in fact, aidan is no longer at this school . he's now enrolled at a school for children with behavioral problems. meredith?

    >> kerry sanders , thank you very much. 8-year-old aidan is here along with his mom mandy . good morning to you both.

    >> good morning.

    >> this is a tough situation for everyone involved, mandy . i understand why you believe using pepper spray on an 8-year-old is excessive. but the police say your son was posing a real threat to teachers, that, in fact, he admits that he wanted to hurt them and they felt they had no choice. can you accept or entertain the possibility that they didn't have any choice but to use spray on your son?

    >> to a degree, but the school he was at was for children with socialle and emotional behavioral issues.

    >> i thought it was not. i thought he was now in a school for behavioral issues.

    >> the school has a classroom specifically for these children.

    >> why does that make a difference?

    >> because they know what the kids are capable of before they took him on. and then they could have also called and asked for a special unit who deals with children from the police department in these crisis situations.

    >> had that been done in the past? the police had been called in to deal with your son on two other occasions.

    >> all other times they have been able to talk to him, find out what was bothering him and calm him down.

    >> aidan , what was bothering you? what happened?

    >> i just get angry a lot.

    >> what happened that day? do you remember what you were doing when the police arrived?

    >> not that much. but i remember most of it.

    >> and what part do you remember? do you remember them asking you to put the stick down?

    >> yeah. like the first time they said it like i just kind of did it slowly. and then once it touched the ground, that's when it happened.

    >> once the stick touched the ground that's when they sprayed you?

    >> yes.

    >> do you think if they had t not sprayed you, you would have tried to hurt your teachers?

    >> no.

    >> you don't think so. do you understand what's going on with aidan , mandy ? this isn't the first time it's happened. what triggerers this at school ?

    >> usually it's a transition period from a structured event such as social studies or reading into a free time and going back to a structured event that he has a problem.

    >> is it something that happens at home as well?

    >> no. he is a normal 8-year-old child at home with us when he goes to see his nana in wyoming, when he's at soccer, swimming, babysitter babysitters, he's fine.

    >> there has to be something. has a doctor diagnosed aidan with anything?

    >> we have had many doctors. he sees a therapist weekly. they all say there is nothing mentally wrong with him or there is no disabilitiy there.

    >> do you know why you get angry at school sometimes when you don't get angry anywhere else?

    >> i don't know. it's just that's the way my body goes. i can't control it for some reason.

    >> mandy , if you had that day to do over what would you have hoped they would do differently?

    >> that they would have called the right section of the police department to come and talk to him before i got there. i was only ten minutes out.

    >> tough question. if you were the parent of another child in that school would you be more accepting of the decision they made?

    >> i'm not sure i would. there were no students in this classroom when it happened.

    >> at this point, aidan , you're in a new school now. how is it going there?

    >> i went there before but it's doing pretty good.

    >> i know that the police are not filing any charges. the school has dropped this. do you want to drop it, mandy , move on? or do you want to see something happened to the officers that used the pepper spray ?

    >> i do want them to get training like other local police departments in our area have for a crisis situation with children. i don't think it is right for an 8-year-old to get pepper sprayed.

    >> i appreciate you coming on. a little tired this morning, huh?

    >> yeah.

    >> it's early. thank you again.

    >> thank you.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 4/6/2011 8:34:57 AM ET 2011-04-06T12:34:57

The mother of an 8-year-old Colorado boy pepper-sprayed by police after he exploded into a violent rage says she believes that the school and police are partly to blame for allowing the incident to spiral out of control.

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“The school he was at was for children who have social and emotional behavioral issues,” the boy’s mom, Mandy, who is identified only by her first name to protect her family’s privacy, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Wednesday. “They [knew] what the kids are capable of before they took them on. And then they could have also called and asked for a special [police] unit who deals with children … in these crisis situations.”

The incident, which garnered national attention, began on Feb. 22 in Lakewood, Colo. — the same school district that became synonymous with school violence when two students at Columbine High School went on a bloody rampage in 1999 that left 15 dead. Aidan, a second-grader at the school, suddenly turned on his two teachers, who were alone with him in the classroom.

By the time police arrived, young Aidan was in a full-blown meltdown. He had ripped molding from the wall and tossed chairs and a TV cart around the classroom. He had grabbed a stick and chased his teachers into the office, where they locked themselves in. “I wanted to make something sharp,” he told NBC News. “I was so mad at them.” At one point, police allege, he warned his teachers, “If you come out, you’re gonna die!”

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Aidan said he does not remember what triggered his rage. “I don’t know,” he told Vieira. “It’s just the way my body goes.”

In fact, it was not the first time that Aidan’s anger issues had led to a confrontation with police. Twice before, authorities had to be summoned to “talk him down” after outbursts in school, his mother said. It is part of a pattern, she said, that seems to appear only when Aidan is in school, and only at particular times. “He’s a normal 8-year-old child at home with us, when he goes got see his dad in Wyoming, when he’s at soccer, swimming, [with the] baby sitter, he’s fine,” she told Vieira. “We don’t have these issues.” At school, however, things are different. “Usually it’s a transition period from a structured event, such as social studies or reading, into a free time and then going back into a structured event that he has a problem,” she said. Doctors and therapists have evaluated the boy, she said, and can find no cause for his periodic outbursts. “They all say there’s nothing mentally wrong with him.”

Video: Kid wields stick, police use pepper spray (on this page)

She insists that his two previous scrapes with police ended without serious incident because the police who responded were specially trained to deal with children in crisis situations.

This time, however, the situation quickly escalated. Police insist that they ordered the boy to drop the stick and when he refused, they squirted him twice with pepper spray.

But Aidan told a slightly different version of the story to Vieira Wednesday. He said that he had already dropped the stick when police sprayed him. “The first time they said it, I just kind of did it slowly and then once it touched the ground, that’s when it happened.”

Police contend that they handled the matter appropriately, and the school district’s superintendent, Peg Kastberg, defended their actions. “They tried to de-escalate the behavior that occurred; [Aidan] was swinging a stick, he was using it as a weapon, he was violent, he was verbal, he was abusive,” she told NBC News.

No charges have been filed against the boy. He has since been enrolled in another school that specializes in children with behavioral problems. But the boy’s mother continues to insist that authorities could have handled the situation differently. She said she believes that police with proper training could have defused or at least stabilized the situation until she arrived. “I was 10 minutes away,” she said.

And proper training, she says, is what she would like to see come out of this situation. “I do want them to get training ... for crisis situations with children. I don’t think it’s right for an 8-year-old to get pepper-sprayed.”

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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