Editors Note: This story originally stated that paramedics responded in 15 minutes, but the response time was 3 minutes. The story now reflects that time.SYRACUSE — A man with autism is accused of trying to get into a neighbor's home in Syracuse, but a friend of his family said that's not the whole story.
The 24-year-old man lives in a group home on the 1300 block of Banbury Drive. The man is nonverbal, functions at the level of a 2-year-old, and has a severe seizure disorder, family friend Jared Gull said.
“He’s really more of a child,” Gull said, who has known the man for more than 10 years.
Gull said the man, who was not named, was put into the private group home about a year ago. “It wasn’t anything that mom and dad wanted to do,” he said.
The man has escaped from the home many times, Gull said, and he needs 24-hour supervision. His most recent escape happened Saturday at around 11 p.m. Gull claims the man became confused and tried to open a door at a nearby house.
Jon Hislop was in his home watching TV when he heard the front door rattling. He looked out the peephole and saw that someone had covered it. Figuring it was his brother-in-law playing a joke on him, Hislop unlocked and opened the door.
“He pushed through and hit me over the head with a VHS cassette tape,” he said Sunday.
According to Hislop, the intruder pushed his way further into his home. Thinking he was trying to get downstairs where his wife was exercising, Hislop wrestled him to the ground.
“I threw him down, put him in an arm hold and was asking him why he was in my house. Who was he? I’ve never see the guy before,” he said.
But Hislop said the man wouldn’t answer. Screaming to his wife for help, she ran upstairs and called 911.
The man, who was still in a headlock, eventually went unconscious. Hislop's wife, who works as a nurse, gave him CPR until police and paramedics responded 3 minutes later. He was then taken to a local hospital.
Gull said the man remained in the ICU Monday, in a medically induced coma. While he’s not breathing on his own, the man's family said he is improving.
I think it's just a tragedy. The family is suffering. They've struggled for years with certain challenges that most of us don't have to deal with.
–Jared Gull, family friend
“I think it’s just a tragedy,” he said. “The family is suffering. They’ve struggled for years with certain challenges that most of us don’t have to deal with.”
As for the VHS tape, Gull said the man often carries a VHS cassette tape and would watch them down in his basement.
“He loved his old VHS cassettes, which I believe were old Disney movies,” Gull said. “(He’s) a loving, tender, young person.”
Still, Gull doesn’t blame the homeowner for putting the man in a headlock. He said he probably would have done the same had he seen a stranger coming into his home.
“I think it’s just a case of some misunderstanding, a huge misunderstanding,” he said.
Officials with the group home where the man was living said an internal investigation is underway.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to our client and his family right now during this difficult time,” said Dustin Erekson, with CTA Community Supports. “We have supported him for several years, and our staff and organization care deeply for him and are hoping for a speedy recovery.”