Teen who was violently arrested during mental health "crisis" strikes plea deal

Teen accepts plea deal after violent arrest

A North Carolina teen who was violently arrested as he experienced a possible mental health emergency has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in juvenile court. According to his mother, Hayden Long accepted a deal under which he would plead guilty to assault and underage drinking charges to avoid being tried as an adult for felony assault.

Hospital security video shows the 16-year-old being tackled to the ground, hit with a taser and punched by a sheriff's deputy while handcuffed after his mother tried to bring him to the hospital for what she called a mental health crisis. The felony assault charge was the result of him spitting blood at Lincoln County Sheriff's Deputy Justin Polson during the December 2019 incident.

Hayden's mother Jessica told CBS News' Janet Shamlian that pleading guilty to the lesser charges was "just the easiest and the safest route to take," with the alternative being to let her son go to court and face the more serious charge as an adult.

Deputy Polson said in court on Monday that he was no longer with the sheriff's department, though it wasn't clear whether he was fired for his actions. He testified that he didn't believe the teen needed mental health treatment at the time.

Long defended her son's behavior. "Mental illness displays in a lot of different ways," she said. "Well maybe he drank alcohol because he is mentally ill. He is suffering from something else and trying to self-medicate."

The security video alarmed Angela Kimball, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"When parents take their child to the emergency department, they're expecting help, not handcuffs," she said. "Children like Hayden deserve treatment and safety, and he got neither."

Kimball said hospitals and first responders need to know how to deescalate situations involving youngsters like Hayden.

"Trained mental health professionals know that people's behaviors can be very agitated. That's something we have to recognize, otherwise we end up harming people," she said.