In 2010, Neli Latson, an 18-year-old Black man with autism, was sitting outside a library when police were called on him; he was existing while black. The caller postulated that Latson had a gun on him. When police arrived, they quickly realized he was unarmed, but proceeded to tackle him after he attempted to walk away. Latson then reacted with a "flight or fight" response and attempted to physically defend himself; this is an extremely common reaction among people with autism. While incarcerated, Latson suffered solitary confinement, among other injustices; for instance, he was held in a "full-body restraint chair" for over nine hours on one occasion. He was unable to "move, eat, or use the restroom," while in the chair. Upon release, "(H)e received a snack bag and milk but was given no dinner." Furthermore, complaints leveled against the Virginia Department of Corrections were "dismissed on the basis of 'qualified immunity.'"
In 2015, he received a conditional pardon from then-governor Terry McAuliffe. However, we maintain that Neli's incarceration was an utter miscarriage of justice, and demand systematic change to honor Latson (namely, the removal of qualified immunity in Virginia). This petition is directed to Governor Ralph Northam, and asks him to issue a full pardon to Mr. Latson and to end qualified immunity in Virginia.