Reporting Serene Branson
STUDIO CITY (CBSLA.com) — A mother is devastated after she said hidden cameras captured caregivers of a Mission Hills-based autistic services organization physically abuse her 31-year-old disabled son.
Kathy Coleman said her and her husband took care of Cameron, their autistic son who is non-verbal and has the mental capacity of a 3-year-old, until they realized their age prevented them from giving him the full-time care he needed.
Last year, Coleman said Jay Nolan Community Services helped find Cameron a home in Northridge and provided him with 24-hour in-home care.
Coleman, however, grew concerned about her son’s living situation when she started to notice bruises on his body.
The mother said she immediately took her concerns to management.
“When I asked them (about the bruises), (they said), ‘We don’t know.’ Then the next week when I came, (the bruises) got worse. Every week (it) got worse. Then my son showed me signs that he’s afraid of the staff,” she said.
Coleman decided to take matters into her own hands and installed hidden cameras inside Cameron’s home.
After a few days, she was horrified by what she saw the workers do to her son.
The recordings showed a caretaker kick Cameron in the face on the toilet, kick him on the floor, hit him with a towel, and then spit on him before walking away.
“I could not believe one human being, even the bad person, would attack a disabled person,” said Coleman.
Another camera captured a different caretaker kick Cameron repeatedly, grab a chain and point a pellet gun in his face, all while a female staffer watched.
“I ask God is there a way I (can go back in time) to stop one kick, one slap, one chain,” said Coleman. “I want to pay anything…to make it stop, but I couldn’t. It’s already passed. I put my son in Jay Nolan…thinking he’d be protected in good hands.”
Coleman said when she told management she had proof of the beatings, they began looking for cameras.
Attorney Steve Gambardella, who is representing the Coleman’s in a civil suit against Jay Nolan Community Services and individual staffers, said, “A couple of managers went to Cameron Coleman’s private residence in Northridge and began to destroy evidence by removing cameras.”
Gambardella continued, “This is such a striking example of physical abuse, it’s tantamount to torture and unacceptable. The company is not training their personnel correctly or at all. The people they’re hiring are not fit to be in a position of care or trust of a dependent adult who deserves the utmost care and attention.”
Jay Nolan eventually let go of two staffers because of the reported abuse.
One of the employees, Oscar Espinosa, was arrested and criminally charged after the Los Angeles Police Department was notified.
An arrest is pending for the other worker.
Police said a warrant is likely to be issued for a third staffer.
Jeff Strully, Jay Nolan’s executive director, initially agreed to an on-camera interview, but ultimately declined.
Instead, the company released a statement which said, in part, “Each employee is vetted and thoroughly trained before they begin providing support services…including background checks (and) classroom-based instruction. We understand that incidents are being reported that certain conduct fell below the high standards we hold. Any such claim is taken very seriously…JNCS is currently working to review our procedures to ensure we meet the high continuing standards we set.”
In January, Coleman said the family parted ways with Jay Nolan and Cameron moved back in with her and her husband.
Coleman now wants to make sure other families don’t trust their loved ones to an organization she claims hasn’t lived up to their reputation.
“Right now, at this moment, somebody is being abused. Maybe this (will give a voice) to some mothers and fathers or guardians…they (can) do something about it,” she said.