Indiana family upset after group home employee allegedly punches man autism in face

ANDERSON, Ind. – The Madison County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an alleged assault at a group home in Anderson after a staff member reportedly punched a client with autism in the home.

The sheriff's office arrested 32-year-old Deshawn Brooks for allegedly punching 20-year old Damian Coverdale on Monday.

Coverdale’s family says he’s still traumatized after the alleged assault.

"He is 20 years old but he is autistic and epileptic, so he has the mind of a 5 or 6-year-old," said Coverdale's mother, Melissa Wright.

Another employee at REM Occazio LLC told Wright about the incident.

"He had asked me ‘have you heard about what happened the other night?’ I said ‘the other night? What happened the other night?’" Wright said.

According to court documents, Deshawn Brooks allegedly punched Damian in the face twice, bruising his nose.

"There's no justification for that. So Damian wouldn't get out of bed? Just walk away and give him a few minutes and then go back to him. If he's not cooled off by then, than walk away again," Wright said.

Deshawn Brooks’s employer, Indiana Mentor, says Brooks has been employed with them for over a year. This is the first incident he’s been involved in.

"We have not been able to speak to our employee because police have an active investigation at this time. All we did was suspended him and clearly the police took over that investigation," Indiana Mentor Executive Director Knute Rotto said.

Brooks was brought in for questioning on Tuesday.

Court documents show he told investigators Damian lifted a clothes hamper over his head and maybe hurt his nose that way.

According to state records, from May 2016 to August 2018, the group home has been cited with 40 deficiencies.

"From an average perspective that home has been fine with no other conditions. There is no suspicion of license. The state has been out on several complaints and we have been cleared of those," Rotto said.

Some of those complaints have dealt with the mistreatment of those living at the group home.

Indiana Mentor’s Executive Director Knute Rotto says it’s concerning what happened to Damian and they won’t tolerate this kind of behavior from staff members.

Brooks is charged with felony battery.

"Whenever you work in a group home with mentally disabled kids, you should be able to have a high tolerance with them," said Coverdale's sister, Jasmine Swinford.

Rotto says once the investigation is complete, more than likely Deshawn Brooks will be fired.

Indiana State Department of Health is aware of the incident that has been reported and is currently evaluating possible courses of action to take.

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