Clarise Coleman learned on Wednesday that police would finally be charging the man who allegedly shoved her 15-year-old son, who has autism and is non-verbal, during the teen’s high school cross-country meet earlier this month.
The man later said he was afraid the boy was a mugger, police allege. Coleman says the charge against him came as a relief.
“When I found out about the warrant, I thought, ‘It’s about time,’ ” she tells PEOPLE. “It took them 15 days to do something they could have done in 12 hours.”
Coleman’s son, Chase Coleman, was allegedly harassed by 57-year-old Martin MacDonald on Oct. 14. Even though police allege MacDonald admitted what he’d done, telling them he shoved Chase because he was afraid his wife would be mugged, no charges were initially filed.
Chase — a ninth grader at Corcoran High School in Syracuse, New York — turned in his uniform days after the altercation in Rochester, New York, his mom says. The avid runner hasn’t laced up his running shoes since.
The case drew little public notice. But Clarise wouldn’t stop talking about it.
“I want to take a nap … I need a nap,” Clarise tells PEOPLE with a sigh, moments after learning that a warrant had been taken out on MacDonald for second-degree harassment.
Though the charge is reportedly a violation, requiring only an initial court appearance (not arrest) and carrying a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail, it matters to the Colemans.
“You just don’t do that to a child,” Clarise says. “A child is a child is a child. If we tell our children they can’t bully each other, then we can’t bully them.”
(MacDonald did not return multiple calls seeking comment.)
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A Racial Element?
Clarise says that she’s upset about the Oct. 14 altercation for several reasons, foremost MacDonald’s alleged behavior, but she’s frustrated it took more than two weeks for charges to be filed against him.
“Instead of using this moment as a teaching moment, and telling this lost kid which way to go, he chose to do the opposite,” Clarise explains. “We tell our kids that adults will keep you safe. This man did [not].”
A police source tells PEOPLE a warrant had in fact been originally completed for MacDonald’s arrest, but a judge declined to sign off on it.
Efforts to reach that judge were unsuccessful Wednesday, and the reasoning behind that decision remains unclear.
Clarise would not offer up a theory for why MacDonald, who is white, wasn’t charged earlier, but she told Syracuse.com she thinks her son being black had something to do with it.
“If that man had been black and Chase had been white, and that [police] report went in, he’d have been in jail,” she told the site.
‘Just Shoved Him Across the Road’
The police source tells PEOPLE witnesses recalled seeing Chase that Friday as he was running in the middle of a road that remained open to traffic. The witnesses allege that MacDonald stopped his car several feet from the runner, approached him and knocked him to the ground before fleeing.
As one witness described it to the site, “I see a grown man, who is quite tall and fairly heavy … exit the vehicle and give this young man a shove that puts him back 10 feet and flat on his butt. Like, just shoved him across the road.”
When officers asked him why he pushed the runner, MacDonald allegedly told them he was concerned Chase “was going to mug his wife and take her purse,” according to the police source.
Clarise says her son started running cross-country three years ago. It was the first time the teen had ever taken to a sport.
She’s trying to convince him to return.
“We are working on getting him to go on a run, to just get that out of his mind,” Clarise says. “We are hoping … he’s going to do it. He has all these people telling him to run again, and all this fantastic support from all over the country. He’ll go back to it.”