Family ordered to leave restaurant because of crying child - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Family ordered to leave restaurant because of crying child

JACKSON, SC (WIS) - At first, Gail Martin says she wasn't sure who was yelling at her to leave the Buckhead Cafe in Jackson. It turned out to be Jackson Police Chief Dennis Rushton, asking Gail and her family to leave.

"I didn't know what he was doing," Gail's daughter Lauren said.

The family was just about to order when 4-year-old Alyssa began crying; she suffers from autism.

Gail says Chief Rushton yelled across the restaurant again.

"He said, 'You need to pick her up and you need to get out of here now,'" Gail said.

Lauren is upset with the chief.

"That was very mean to say -- just very mean," Lauren said.

The embarrassment was too much for Gail and her daughters, who soon left the restaurant.

"I wasn't embarrassed of Alyssa's behavior, I was embarrassed of the way it was handled," Gail said.

Chief Rushton would not make a statement, but he did say he felt Mrs. Martin's daughter was being extremely loud and bothering other customers.

Even though he knew the child was autistic, he said he did ask the Martins to leave.

Gail says she feels like Chief Rushton should have been more understanding about what was going on with her autistic daughter.

"We can't just lock them up, they have every right to be out in public like everyone else," Gail said.

Now Gail hopes her story will bring more awareness about autism.

"If it can happen in a small town in Jackson, it can happen anywhere," Gail said.

Chief Rushton says he is open to going through training through the South Carolina Autism Society to help him better understand the condition.

Tuesday afternoon, the child's grandfather met with the mayor of Jackson about the situation.

"I feel like I didn't accomplish anything but I do feel like I got it off my chest," says Ray Martin.

Martin is the grandfather of four-year-old Alyssa, who is autistic.
     
Alyssa's mother Gail says last Monday she and her daughter were kicked out of the restaurant in Jackson by the police chief because Alyssa was crying.
    
Chief Dennis Rushton knows the child is autistic. But because he felt she was disrupting other customers, he asked the martins to leave.    

He since has agreed to talk with Alyssa's mother about what happened. Gail says she never heard from him.
    
So Tuesday Gail's father-in-law Ray called the town's mayor, Todd Etheridge and set up a meeting himself.
    
The outcome? According to Ray, the mayor suggested the Martins call town hall and arrange a meeting with chief Rushton.

"We shouldn't have to call them and set up an appointment to go to city hall to get an apology," says Ray.
    
We called Mayor Etheridge Tuesday to speak with him, but an administrative assistant told us he doesn't comment on personnel matters.
    
Ray feels his family is not only owed an apology, but that Chief Rushton should be made to go through training through the South Carolina Autism Society to help him better understand the condition.

"What's to say he won't do it again. That's our feeling. This isn't strong enough," says Ray.

Chief Rushton has already agreed to go through that training. In the meantime, the Martins say they're waiting on an apology.

And if they get it?

"As far as what we go do, I really don't know, I really don't know," says Ray.
    
We spoke with Chief Rushton again Tuesday, and he says he was out of town most of the day, and that's why he wasn't able to be a part of the meeting with the mayor.
   
The chief still maintains he's willing to apologize to the Martins once they contact him.
    
Count on 10 to continue to follow this story.     

Reported by Trey Paul

Updated by Jeremy Turnage

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