A Long Island bus driver has been arrested and accused of breaking a five-year-old autistic boy's arm. Police say that Richard Mason, 39, allegedly grabbed Connor Shirangi’s arm and twisted it behind his back while trying to discipline the boy on Monday. Connor’s mother, Desiree Johnston-Shirangi, told PIX11 that doctors believe Connor's injuries were consistent with being tied down and having his airway restricted. “My son was going through this and the fear that he had to the point that he urinated in his pants and I wasn’t there,” Johnston-Shirangi said.
Johnston-Shirangi added that Mason initially told her that her son injured his arm by punching a window, and that he told the other children on the bus not to tell their parents what happened. “Connor was swinging his feet and kicking the seat of the bus and Mr. Mason apparently got upset and handled him the way you wouldn’t handle anybody,” she told CBS. “From what the doctors are saying, he used excessive force on my child.”
Mason told News 12 Long Island that that boy was “pounding his hand against the window and to prevent the window from shattering, I blocked him." Many commenters on that story came to Mason's defense, including Melanie Donus, a mother of an autistic child who says she knows Mason very well:
I happen to know richard very well...my 5 year old non verbal child with autism was on that bus. Richard has been good to us and Maxx loved him! There were 2 brothers fighting on the bus and he was trying to break it up. My heart goes out to the parents as i can imagine how they feel, however I am waiting to hear more details of the investigation before i form an opinion. I think that the word discipline may have confused the community.
Mason’s niece defended her uncle in court yesterday: “He’s not that kind of person. He wouldn’t do something like this,” the niece, Anisha Fluellen, said. “I’m so frustrated at this situation.” Fluellen ended up in a heated confrontation with Johnston-Shirangi, who told her, "I hope he gets the help he needs.”