TEMPLE, TX — A man with autism who is well known in the community says he is now scared after he was tackled and arrested by a Temple PD officer.
According to the Temple Police Department, around 7:30 p.m., officers received a call about a man walking in and out of traffic near the intersection of South 31st Street and Southwest HK Dodgen Loop.
Police say the caller reported that the person, later identified as 30-year-old Sergei Hall, was acting erratically by flailing his arms and yelling.
The caller reported she was exiting Planet Fitness when she saw Hall in the parking lot, and that his behavior made her fear for her safety. As she exited the parking lot and turned onto 31st Street, she told police Hall walked in front of her car and stopped, causing her to brake abruptly to avoid hitting him.
Hall explains he was minding his business, waiting at this corner in Temple to cross the road for a sweet tea.
"I was just walking down the street with my music on, just doing my own thing, and then this officer just came out of no where, he just came, like I didn't even see him, and he kind of spooked me," he said.
Police say Officer Jacob Perkins arrived on scene and made contact with Hall at the intersection of South 31st Street and the private driveway in front of Temple Mall.
Police say Officer Perkins requested that Hall step away from the intersection to speak with him, but Hall walked away from the officer and into the roadway.
That's when Hall says the officer grabbed him.
"And he kind of just threw me against the ground, and my face, my face hit the ground hard, like, my face smashed the ground," he recalled.
Police say since it was dark with heavy traffic, and there have been three recent incidents of pedestrians being struck by vehicles, Officer Perkins pulled him out of the roadway, took him to the ground in a nearby grassy area, and arrested him for evading.
People watching were horrified.
"I seen the cop run and tackle him. He hadn't done anything," said Dezja Wedderburn, who witnessed Hall's arrest.
"I told the officer I wanted to go home and that it wasn't my fault, and he told me I had to go to jail last night," Hall said while choking back tears.
Hall was booked for evading arrest by the Temple Police Department.
"How does that make you feel?" asked 25 News reporter Erin Heft.
"It makes me feel like I wish more people understood me," replied Hall.
Hall carries a puzzle piece to symbolize he has autism. Many think the officer missed the mark.
"For the officer to do it that way, I just think it was uncalled for, and it makes me not want to trust the officers in Temple," said Erin Gonzalez, a friend of Hall's.
"They need to retrain, retrain, retrain, retrain. They need to be retrained on a lot of stuff," said Wedderburn.
Known from walking everywhere he goes, Hall's concerned about stepping out.
"I worry about, I don't want to go out there because I don't want them to bother me because and I'm kind of worried about them now," he said.
But this incident doesn't take away from his self-love.
"I'm proud I have autism, because people are special that have differences," said Hall.
It also doesn't take away from his love for all for Temple.
"I wish the best for all of you because I love everybody and just to let you know my name is Sergei, thank you," he said.
The Temple Police Department says there are policies in place specifically addressing officer interactions with people who have special needs. The department says they are reviewing the actions taken by Officer Perkins, who joined the department in 2019, as well as any other personnel involved in the decision to charge Hall.