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Mother pleas for help for arrested autistic son

Reginald “Neli” Latson, 18, faces charges of assaulting a police officer.

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. – A Stafford County mother says her autistic son needs help, not jail time.

Reginald “Neli” Latson, 18, was charged on May 24 with assaulting a police officer outside North Stafford High School.

That day, schools were locked down, K9s and pepper spray were used on Latson and a police officer, police said, and now Latson sits in a mental institution awaiting his court appearance.

At 8:37 a.m. May 24 police received a call about a suspicious person, possibly with gun, sitting on the grass next to Porter Library on Parkway Boulevard in North Stafford.

The call came from someone who works at the adjacent Park Ridge Elementary School, police said.

When Stafford sheriff’s deputies arrived, they couldn’t find the suspicious man, but a lockdown of five area schools – including North Stafford High School – was ordered as a search ensued.

About 20 minutes later, sheriff’s deputy Thomas Calverley saw a man fitting the description of the alleged gunman walking out of the woods behind North Stafford High School.

“When Deputy Calverley requested identification from Reginald Latson, Latson proceeded to attack and assault the deputy for no apparent reason. The suspect struck the deputy numerous times,” said Stafford sheriff’s spokesman Bill Kennedy following the incident.

Police say the man grabbed Calverley’s pepper spray and used it on him and then fled back into the woods.

A K9 later located the man and he was arrested without further incident, said Kennedy.

The schools lockdown was lifted and investigation revealed that the caller at the elementary school may have never actually seen a gun.

Latson was taken to jail and held without bond, and then later to a Virginia mental institution for evaluation.

He suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, which can cause someone not to be able to understand other people’s body language and leaves them unable, at times, to interact with others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Latson’s mother, Lisa Alexander, is not making excuses for her son’s actions that day, though she says he shouldn’t be jailed.

“The bottom line is that, there is no face for Asperger’s for the average people out there.  I believe that my son is a victim.  He needs help, not imprisonment.  Now he is facing years in prison on three felony counts and I know that he cannot make it through this,” she stated on a Web site to raise money for her son’s growing legal bills.

Before he was arrested, Latson was attending a private day school in Stafford County, working toward graduating high school. He walks a lot, most times to the library a few times each week, where there is a teen room where he can interact with others his age, said Alexander.

But this isn’t the first time Latson has been in trouble.

A search of his court record returned a guilty charge for misdemeanor assault in 2009. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail with all time suspended, according to court records.

A request for comment from Alexander wasn’t immediately returned.

But she has been forthcoming about Latson’s other past problems, including a bout with depression that forced him to swallow a bottle of pills and then run away from a program sponsored by what Alexander called the Virginia Military Challenge.

Before entering that program, Latson left Stafford County Public Schools after his parents felt that he was not getting enough help and attention to his studies. Afterwards, for about a year he lived and attended classes at Youth For Tomorrow, a home for at-risk children in Prince William County founded by former Redskins football coach Joe Gibbs.

Latson will appear in court July 23 on four charges, including disarming a police officer and using his weapon against him.

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