PEORIA, Ariz. - We are hearing from the parents of a non-verbal teen on the autism spectrum who was allegedly beaten up over the weekend.
16-year-old Vincent Courey has reportedly been non-verbal his entire life, and was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old. His parents said Vincent goes with them everywhere, and a place they go almost every Sunday is a Peoria pizza restaurant where two of Vincent's brothers work.
The incident reportedly happened on May 7. According to Vincent's parents, he was watching people play games, which is something he likes to do because he can't play games himself. That was when Vincent tapped someone on the shoulder. Tapping someone on the shoulder, according to Vincent's parents, is his way of communicating with other people.
"He's non-verbal autistic," said Vincent's mother, Debora Escobar. "He means no harm. That's his form of communication."
A group of people, however, reportedly took offense to that.
"[They took] him into the corner where there are no cameras and nobody can see, and beating the crap out of him and then trying to leave the scene," said Vincent's father, Michael Escobar.
"My son, he can't talk and they kept hitting him," said Debora. "They kept hitting him. He couldn't say stop. He couldn't say ‘please, this is hurting me.’ He just stood there helpless, and they just kept hitting him."
Before knowing his son was involved, Michael called police because two parties were yelling at one another. He was told later that his son touched someone.
"I'm thinking, like, that's not my son to do that, you know. The way they said it, they made it seem like it was an inappropriate touch," said Michael.
"Our son is covered in welts," said Debora. "I don't know how else you can not continue to hurt someone, when they are not even capable of saying stop."
Following the incident, Vincent had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. His parents said he is still traumatized.
We have reached out to officials with the Peoria Police Department, who said the suspect in the case is a 24-year-old El Mirage man. The suspect, according to police, has not been arrested.
"The officer was still like, we can't arrest anybody today, and I said what do you mean? He is a minor and these are adults, how can you just let this go?" said Debora.
Peoria Police officials said they have submitted the case, and are recommending an assault charge.
"I forgive them, but at the same time, forgiveness doesn't mean you can't run from being held accountable," said Michael.
Vincent's parents are sharing their story to raise awareness about Autism, as well as seeking justice for their son.
"A lot of what I do is work on those communications, ways to communicate appropriately rather than engaging in behaviors, which a lot of kiddos on the spectrum do. Tapping on one's shoulder is an appropriate way to get that attention," said Samantha Rochford, Clinical Director at the Phoenix Autism Center.
Vincent Courey (right)