During an Oct. 14 cross country race, a black Syracuse runner, Chase Coleman, was attacked and shoved in the streets near Cobbs Hill by 57 year-old Martin MacDonald of Pittsford. According to reports, the 15 year-old runner had been standing in part of the street near Cobb Hill when he was approached by MacDonald’s car. MacDonald proceeded to exit his car then shove the boy after several minutes of yelling at him, according to police reports and eye witnesses. According to eye witnesses, Chase Coleman, who is autistic and nonverbal, was in the street at the time but was obviously not a threat to the attacker who was over twice his size.
After the incident, MacDonald was found and questioned, during which time he admitted to attacking Chase Coleman after the teen wouldn’t respond to his shouting. He cited his fear that the runner would mug his wife, who had been seated in the passenger seat, because his car had previously been broken into by black teens, as justification for his actions, though Chase Coleman was in full uniform with a running number pinned. Though admitting to the violation, which is punishable by no more than 15 days in jail, Rochester City Court Judge Caroline Morrison initially denied an arrest warrant for MacDonald despite Coleman’s mother, Clarise Coleman’s, desire to press charges. Clarise Coleman fears that the attack and dismissal of charges have less to do with the attack only being a violation and more to do with her son being black and disabled.
“If [MacDonald] had been black and Chase had been white, and that [police] report went in, he’d have been in jail,” said Clarise Coleman in a statement to Syracuse.com.
After the incident, Chase Coleman turned in his uniform to his coach and quit the cross-country team. According to his mother, Chase Coleman looks at adults for direction and, after this incident, no longer feels safe in the only sport he has ever enjoyed. In response to the attack and the lack of action taken, Syracuse City Councilwoman Susan Boyle sent a heated letter to Monroe District Attorney Sandra Doorley, criticizing the office’s refusal to fight what she believes was a blatant act of racism and aggression towards a disabled black minor.
After the incident gained national attention, the Rochester Police Department revisited the case. On Nov. 2, Judge Caroline Morrison approved an arrest warrant for MacDonald who was taken into police custody after surrendering himself the day after.
Whether or not DA Doorley had a major part in revisiting the case is not clear. DA Doorley’s spokeswoman, Mary Wilmot, had previously stated that the DA’s office would not be involved with the case after the initial charges were denied. According to Wilmot, MacDonald was arraigned on Friday, Nov 4 and his next court date is scheduled for Nov. 9.
Chase Coleman’s former coach and teammates, as well as the Syracuse School District, are currently organizing a Nov. 19 run to encourage him to rejoin the team. Clarise Coleman says her son has been deeply traumatized by the experience but hopes he’ll return to the sport that has given him such comfort over the last three years.