As Westword wrote on July 17, Logan Thompson, a child with autism, was charged with third-degree assault and harassment after an October 2015 altercation with another student in a Douglas County school.
In the lawsuit between the Thompson family and the 18th District Attorney's office, a deputy district attorney compared the child to the Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza, who killed twenty children and six adults at a Connecticut school in 2012 — the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
"I do want to make a little bit of record, because here's the problem," said Deputy District Attorney Deborah Wrenholt during a July 2016 court session. "Some of these autistic kids can be very violent. I don't know if you've ever heard of Adam Lanza, but that's what we're trying to avoid. Sometimes there needs to be up-front stuff so that somebody doesn't become violent.
"There are studies out, unfortunately, that kids who are dual-diagnosed with autism and something else can lead to very violent crimes," Wrenholt continued. "What we're trying to do is make sure that that he doesn't reoffend."
Wrenholt was referring to Lanza's dual diagnosis with Asperger's syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder and his diagnosis with anorexia. In a 2013 interview, Adam Lanza's father, Peter Lanza, speculated that Adam was also in the early stages of schizophrenia when he killed two dozen at Sandy Hook.
At the time of Wrenholt's comments, Logan Thompson was diagnosed with autism and a "serious emotional disability," according to Thompson's lawyer, Jacque Phillips.
Neither Thompson nor his mother, Lisa Thompson, were in attendance at the hearing. But Wrenholt's comments drew criticism from Lisa when she heard them after filing a request for them in July.
"I was not in court that day…. My attorney contacted me because she attended on my behalf, and told me that," Thompson says. "I was dumbfounded — like, you’re joking. Somebody is comparing a shooter to someone who has autism? That is ridiculous. They are like night and day."
The 18th District Attorney's Office is prohibited from commenting on juvenile cases, says spokeswoman Vikki Migoya.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The lawsuit stems from an incident in October 2015 in which Thompson and another student had an altercation during their fifth-grade gym class. Thompson was allegedly pushed to the ground and retaliated with a "slap" — which the victim's parents described as a "closed-fist sucker-punch" in a court hearing last month. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office recommended that the case be forwarded to a juvenile detective soon after.
Thompson's case has been ongoing for almost two years. After he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial last year, the district attorney's office has established a "management plan" for Thompson that includes six different therapy sessions a week, from emotional and social counseling to equine therapy with horses and tae kwon do. He is enrolled in a school program that specializes in special-needs education.
The Douglas County School District issued a statement when asked for comment on the altercation: "Any time a situation of this nature happens in one of our schools, we work to immediately investigate and take the appropriate action to support the well-being of all of our students.... Although the Douglas County School District is not directly involved in the current and ongoing court proceedings, we are fully cooperating with the involved parties. Further, we have addressed the concerns shared with our school and district staff members."
In Colorado, about 6 percent of students with autism faced disciplinary action — including being referred to the court system — in the 2013-14 school year; that's 1 percent higher than the national average. And if they aren't under supervision of the courts, students with special needs are more likely to be the victims of abuse.