Down syndrome advocates react to beating of man by sheriff's deputy

SAN DIEGO - Advocates Thursday expressed shock and sadness after a local man with Down syndrome was beaten by a San Diego County sheriff's deputy.

"Personally, I think the reaction was disproportionate to the situation," said Jackie Husson, president of the Down Syndrome Association of San Diego.

Disappointed and sad are the words Husson used to describe her feelings after seeing 10News' story about Antonio Martinez.

Martinez, 21, was walking to his family's bakery in Vista just before 8:00 p.m. Tuesday when he was beaten by the deputy.

"I think if there was a better understanding and awareness of people with Down syndrome, it wouldn't have escalated to this point," Husson added.

Her 27-year-old son, Frankie, also has Down syndrome. Even he was at a loss after seeing 10News' story.

"It's not OK to abuse someone like that," Frankie Husson said.

When 10News spoke with Martinez's family Wednesday, the scratches on his face and bruises on his arms were still fresh.

Sheriff's Capt. Joe Rodi was also there to visit the family and apologize. Rodi told 10News that deputies were looking for a man in the area possibly involved in a domestic violence dispute, when they came across Martinez.

It was cold outside, so Martinez covered his head with the hood of his sweatshirt. It was an act, the deputy misinterpreted.

"He pepper sprayed him; when that wasn't effective, he hit him with a baton, which put him on the ground," added Rodi. "Then a couple more strikes to get his hands free so they could hand cuff him."

"There must have been a communication breakdown," Jackie Husson added.

She also said there needs to be a greater level of awareness.

"If things happen very quickly where they are bombarded or they are in a situation they are not familiar with, it can be very difficult for them to process what's occurring or if they are given instructions to understand it thoroughly," she said.

The Hussons plan to reach out to the Martinez family to offer their support.

"I'm sorry it happened, and it should not happen again," added Frankie Husson.

The association plans to discuss what happened in Vista at their next board meeting. They also hope to educate the sheriff's department on Down syndrome to prevent this from happening again.

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