ORANGE (CBSLA) — Disabled rights activists gathered in Orange Saturday to demand justice for a teenager with autism who died in a golf cart accident at a local high school.
Activists gathered for the “Justice 4 Manny” march at Chapman and The City Drive, sad and angry about the death of Manny Perez. Perez died Monday, hours after a golf cart accident at El Modena High School.
“I’m not going to be able to see him again,” his mother, Micaela Corona, told CBS2/KCAL9 through a translator.
Manny and his mother used to attend monthly meetings at UCI for Spanish-speaking families with kids with autism. The Hernandez family started the support group 21 years ago. Their son, like Manny Perez, dealt with autism. They were stunned to hear Manny had died.
“It was Manny, but it could’ve been my son,” Jose Luis Hernandez said.
“We want accountability. We want the truth to come out,” another activist said.
Manny, who was age 15, had the mental capacity of a 5-year-old child.
The school district released a statement detailing what their security cameras recorded Monday at El Modena High School.
The district said two aides were always near or next to Manny as he moved across campus. As they got close to a golf cart, Manny ran ahead of them and got in the passenger seat. The aides were not aware the cart was operational and tried to coax him out, they said.
According to the district: “Once Manny depressed the accelerator both aides aggressively tried to stop the vehicle from moving forward. One aide even physically held onto the back of the cart, as it was moving.”
The cart slammed into a metal railing, fatally injuring Manny Perez. His mother and her attorney are filing a claim against the district — a pre-cursor to a lawsuit claiming negligence.
“You cannot leave him in the cart sitting there without another adult or another person supervising him in the cart with him,” family attorney Robert Glassman said.
Organizers told CBS2/KCAL9 Manny’s mother decided not to attend Saturday’s protest after receiving death threats while trying to deal with the death of her son.
Friends say a burial for the teen is scheduled this week.