When mother Kathy Coleman noticed bruises on Cameron, her 31-year-old nonverbal son with autism, she was puzzled. Cameron, who has the mental capacity of a three-year-old, couldn't tell her how he got them, but he did show signs of being afraid of his caretakers from Jay Nolan Community Services, a non-profit disability services organization based in Mission Hills, Calif.
She approached the non-profit's managers to discuss Cameron's injuries, but Coleman was rebuffed. That's when she took matters into her own hands by installing hidden video cameras in her son's room. What she found confirmed her worst fears.
The footage showed Cameron's caretakers repeatedly kicking and hitting him. One caretaker even spit on him and pointed a pellet gun in his face.
CBS2 broke the news about the alleged abuse Cameron suffered. In an interview with CBS2 (video above), Coleman agonized over what she could have done to prevent the abuse her son suffered.
“I ask God is there a way I (can go back in time) to stop one kick, one slap, one chain," said Coleman to CBS2. "I want to pay anything ... to make it stop, but I couldn’t. It’s already passed. I put my son in Jay Nolan ... thinking he’d be protected in good hands.”
But it gets worse. When Coleman confronted the home's managers about her evidence, they responded by making a beeline for Cameron's room to find the cameras and destroy the evidence, said attorney Steve Gambardella, who is representing the Coleman family in a lawsuit against the care facility.
Since the incident last year, Coleman has removed her son from his 24-hour care facility and moved him back home, reports CBS2. Caretaker Oscar Espinosa was arrested and charged, and another worker could also face arrest. Both have been fired from their jobs at JNCS.
Unfortunately, stories of shocking treatment against people with autism are not uncommon -- and sometimes, secret surveillance is the only way to get to the bottom of the abuse if the victim is non-verbal or struggles to communicate. A school bus assistant was caught on camera tormenting a 13-year-old boy with autism on a school bus in Florida. A New Jersey dad wired his 10-year-old autistic son with a digital recorder to catch his teacher and teacher's aide verbally bullying him. And one mom from San Diego, Calif. secretly recorded two beloved caretakers punching and slapping her 23-year-old son with severe autism.
Indeed, a 2012 study from Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University found that 63 percent of children with autism had suffered from bullying, and that they were three times more likely to be tormented than their siblings without autism.