An elderly driver and his wife were taken to the Ladysmith Community Health Centre for assessment after hitting Appetit Food For Thought on First Avenue Tuesday

Police use technology to establish trust with autistic man

Imaginative work by Ladysmith RCMP helped start a line of communication with an autistic man in the grocery store.

Ladysmith’s emergency responders were called downtown Tuesday, March 11 when a pickup truck crashed into Appetit Food For Thought at 534 First Ave.

A 1999 Ford F250 slammed straight into the building at 2:05 p.m., according to Ladysmith RCMP Staff Sgt. Dave Herman.

“The driver was interviewed, and he was going northbound on First Avenue and was slowing to pull into a parking spot on the west side when he encountered a medical problem allegedly and was unable to stop,” said Herman.

The driver and his wife were both wearing seatbelts, and the impact of the crash was severe enough to deploy both airbags, according to Herman.

Both people were taken to the Ladysmith Community Health Centre for assessment of minor injuries, and the truck was towed, according to Herman.

The Ladysmith RCMP has followed up by recommending an administrative review of the driver’s licence, he explained.

***

Technology came in handy recently when texting helped Ladysmith RCMP members make a connection with an autistic man who was causing a disturbance at the grocery store.

Herman says that on Tuesday, March 4 at 4:24 p.m., Ladysmith RCMP received a complaint from the manager of the 49th Parallel Grocery Store stating that a man wearing a bike helmet was inside the store drinking chocolate milk, ketchup and mustard without paying for them, and the male was beginning to throw things around the store and refusing to respond to the store managers who were attempting to deal with him.

Three RCMP members attended the location and found the male, who is described as approximately six-feet-six-inches and weighing more than 300 pounds.

“He was in a highly autistic state and refused to respond to police officers’ attempts to communicate with him,” said Herman. “However, through some imaginative work on the part of some of the younger members, he did respond to text messages. Through texting, they were able to start a line of communication. Once that was established, members were able to open up a dialogue with this man, and they were able to establish a relationship and subsequently assist him in obtaining the medical assistance that he required.”

Police later learned that this man is very intelligent and is a savant, who is very skilled at music and mathematics, explained Herman.

“People who are autistic, if you can establish that trust and relationship, if you can establish that relationship and break up those barriers, then you are able to resolve whatever issues that are there,” said Herman.

***

A co-ordinated response by officers from six RCMP units led to the quick arrest of an armed robbery suspect in Ladysmith March 4.

Shortly before noon, Ladysmith RCMP responded to a report of an armed robbery at a floral shop on First Avenue.

Initial information indicated that a man had entered the business, brandished a knife and demanded cash from a woman working at the shop. The suspect fled the store on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Multiple RCMP units were working in the Ladysmith area at the time of the robbery, including South Island Traffic Services, Nanaimo Police Dog Service, Nanaimo Forensic Identification Section, and the Island District General Investigation Section. The Ladysmith Detachment, with support from the RCMP Operational Communication Centre, co-ordinated these additional resources as they searched for the suspect.

Efforts paid off shortly before 1 p.m., when an officer with South Island Traffic Services spotted a man matching the suspect’s description in the Diamond area. Additional officers flooded the area, and a secure perimetre was established. RCMP Police Dog Services began tracking the suspect, locating him a short time later hiding under the sun deck of a residence on Grouhel Road.

Twenty-eight-year-old Joshua Lee Morgan of Ladysmith was arrested, taken into custody and charged with one count of armed robbery.

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