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Autistic Syracuse teen gives Rochester another run

Sasha-Ann Simons
Chase Coleman (left) before running with Rochester Police recruits last Friday.

After an experience in Rochester that drew national attention, Syracuse teen Chase Coleman is moving forward by visiting the city again. For the first time since being shoved to the ground during a cross country run in Rochester's Cobb’s Hill Park in October, Chase returned to the area to run once again.

Clarise Coleman, Chase’s mother, said it took some nudging to get him excited about the trip.

“He's hearing the word Rochester and he's remembering everything, and I said we're going to have fun this time,” Clarise Coleman said, “So as we were driving we were listening to gospel music, hip hop, and we were laughing.”

Chase, who suffers from autism and is non-verbal, was invited by the Rochester Police Department to run with police recruits Friday afternoon. Clarise Coleman said her son was so traumatized after the October incident that he quit his high school running team and vowed never to run again.

Credit Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI News
Clarise Coleman, mother of Chase, hugs Rochester Police Chief Michael Ciminelli as her son ran a race with recruits.

“We got to practice and he said, ‘No more practice.’ So, I said if you really don’t want to practice anymore, I want you to tell the coach,” Clarise Coleman said.

Chase was suited up for the afternoon run, wearing gear similar to that of the police recruits: a grey sweatshirt with his last name marked on the back. Coleman's mom was overcome with emotion once the runners took off for the 1 ½ mile trek.

“I'm emotional right now I'm usually not like that,” said Coleman, “What the RPD is doing already makes me just want to cry, and then just seeing [Chase] out there with the class…feeling so comfortable...I'm just so excited.”

Martin McDonald, 57, of Pittsford, admitted to pushing Chase, claiming he thought the teen was going to “mug his wife and take her purse.” In November, McDonald pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree harassment, plus a charge of endangering the welfare of a child.

The incident quickly sparked conversations about inclusion and acceptance, and prompted members of the Rochester community to form groups and speak out about the assault.

This story came from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.