Assault of Central staff member dismissed on basis of mental incompetency, student still allowed on campus

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Yancy

The first strike hit Lareta “Joy” Chrismer near her temple, cutting her face and sending her to the ground. Onlookers in Nicholson Pavilion’s field house said Bryan Yancy then kicked her repeatedly in the head while she was down.

Chrismer had just congratulated Yancy on an article written about him in The Observer. The story was about Yancy’s success in life while dealing with autism, and his bond with the football team.

“I feared for my life when I came to on the floor and felt blows to the back of my head,” Chrismer wrote in her petition for an Order for Protection.

Days later, Chrismer would reflect on the incident.

Lareta "Joy" Chrismer

Lareta “Joy” Chrismer

“I cannot just sit back and ignore the fact that he needs help,” Chrismer wrote in her Victim Impact Statement.

Yancy has autism, a disorder that affects 1 in 68 American citizens, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report. Autism ranges along a spectrum of mild to severe. Yancy falls under a more severe diagnosis of developmental autism. Studies from around the country have shown that people with autism have an increased tendency for displaying aggressive behaviors.

This incident brings into question the legal system’s ability to cope with society’s right to safety, versus an individual’s right to participate in society, regardless of whether they have a mental disorder.

“He’s no imminent threat to anybody,” James Denison, Yancy’s attorney, said minutes before Yancy’s assault charge was dismissed on Jan. 23.

Central has suspended Yancy for winter quarter, but still allows him to visit some parts of campus.

“This attack is not just about me. It is about the fact that Mr. Yancy has a history of attacks against other citizens and people of authority in his life, and that he is continually allowed to not be held responsible for those attacks,” Chrismer wrote in her victim statement. “From what I have witnessed, I do not believe that his parents/guardians are capable of getting him the appropriate help.”

Yancy has been at Central for eight years as a student, taking classes but not earning credit toward a degree. He served as a member of the Central football team’s coaching staff for seven years before “retiring” in 2014 due to the stresses of traveling, his father said.

Yancy is also beloved by many team members, and his end-of-the-season “Friendship Awards” have been highly coveted.

In her response to Chrismer’s victim statement, Yancy’s mother and caretaker, Cynthia Loveland, wrote that Yancy has been a model citizen. He has raised money for charity, donated food to the FISH Food Bank after it caught fire last November, and volunteered regularly at the West Seattle Food Bank from 2000-2004. He has also worked as a paper carrier for the Daily Record.

“Wherever he goes, he brings a smile to people’s faces,” Cynthia Loveland wrote. “I absolutely feel that Bryan is a productive member of society who has a purpose.”

This was not Yancy’s first assault on another person. According to a competency evaluation administered in July 2005 by Michael Comte, clinical social worker, Yancy has a history of violent attacks.

Despite these outbursts, Yancy has yet to face any serious legal consequences.

In 2005, Yancy was expelled from Ellensburg High School for attacking a vice principal and a member of the teaching staff. All charges were dropped due to a conclusion of incompetency, as they were for the most recent incident.

Chrismer decided not to press charges of her own.

Although Yancy was not convicted of a crime, the state could have pursued RCW 10.77.088, which states that a person found not competent in a nonfelony charge should be placed in a secure mental health facility for a period no longer than 14 days.

“I cannot reasonably believe that any Act such as the Disabilities Educational Act or the Disability Discrimination Act were put in place to allow disabled people the ability to assault others and not be held responsible for their actions,” Chrismer’s victim statement reads.

Newspaper profile leads to violent reaction

Conditioning class started in the field house in Nicholson Pavilion at 10 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2014, like any other day.

“Most of us were gathered along the wall and a few people were closer to the main entry of the gym, including [Yancy] and his caretaker Joe,” Caitlin Sloane wrote in her witness report.

Bryan Yancy “was in a great mood and we were joking around; the normal start to our day,” Josef (Joe) Kistler, Yancy’s caretaker of four years, said in his voluntary witness statement.

Joy Chrismer, a 60-year old equipment manager working in Nicholson, walked up to Yancy, according to witnesses.

“I was giving [Yancy] a compliment on the write-up in the school paper, he then flipped me off,” Chrismer’s statement read.

Jared Larson witnessed Yancy’s sudden change of mood.

“The look on [Yancy’s] face then changed and he looked very angry. [Yancy] then reached back and punched Joy in the face, knocking off her glasses, cutting her cheek, and sending her to the floor instantly,” Larson wrote in an email to David Paul, graduate assistant and track and field coach.

Chrismer was knocked unconscious by the blow, according to her statement taken after the attack.

Yancy “[blind-sided] me, knocked me down. That’s all I remember. This happened so quick,” Chrismer wrote in a police report after regaining consciousness that day.

Kistler said in his voluntary witness statement, taken right after the incident, that he had positioned himself near Yancy in an anticipatory stance.

Yancy “had recently developed anxiety around Joy for reasons that I cannot understand or [get] him to verbalize to me,” Kistler wrote. “Bryan saw her coming and turned his back to her. I made sure he was within my arm’s reach as she neared.”

Kistler’s description of the incident differs from that of the other witnesses.

“He became aggressive and struck out at Joy, hitting her in the face,” Kistler wrote. “She dropped as I put him [on] the ground as well (at the time of the incident Bryan was within my arm’s reach and Joy was just out of my reach).”

Kistler then took Yancy out of the area while Nicholson Pavilion staff attended to Chrismer.

Central student Caitlin Sloane was waiting for her conditioning class to start when she saw the altercation.

“Within a second, she was on the ground,” Sloane wrote in her witness statement. “It all happened very fast but I saw [Yancy] punch her to the ground. Joe was not directly near him when it happened.”

“She was on the ground and [Yancy] began kicking her in the head and chest profusely before Joe intervened and pulled [Yancy] off. [Yancy] showed extreme strength and fought through Joe’s restraints, going at Joy again. Finally Joe got [Yancy] to listen,” Sloane wrote.

Kistler’s report makes no mention of Yancy kicking Chrismer in the head while she lay on the ground.

Mackenzie Burvee, Chrismer’s niece, was working in Nicholson when she heard Kistler yelling at Yancy to “drop and give him 10.”

“I turned to look and I saw Joy Chrismer lying on the field house floor. I ran to her side. She looked terrified and was crying. Blood was running down the side of her face and down her right hand; she was holding the back of her head with her left hand, and was sitting up leaning on her right elbow,” Burvee wrote in her witness statement.

Burvee’s first reaction was to call her dad, Matt Burvee, who works across the street in the Hogue Technology Building. Matt Burvee, upon arriving at the scene, called 9-1-1.

Greg Margheim, university police officer, was the first law enforcement officer to arrive.

“I walked over to the field house area where [Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue] was completing their assessment on Chrismer,” Margheim wrote in his incident report. “Chrismer appeared to have trouble keeping her balance and KVFR advised she was going to go to [Kittitas Valley Hospital] to be assessed for a concussion.”

After Chrismer refused transportation via ambulance, Matt Burvee elected to drive her to KVH. Margheim then made contact with Yancy.

“He said he was waiting for class to start, then ‘Joy’ came over to him so he ‘took Joy down,’ ” Margheim reported. “Yancy’s arms were crossed and his head was down while he explained this.”

Margheim cited Yancy with assault in the fourth degree and informed Yancy’s adoptive mother, Cynthia Loveland, who had arrived on scene, about the mandatory court date.

“Loveland took custody of Yancy and they left the area,” Margheim reported.

Later that evening, The Observer received an email from Sammy Henderson, director of athletic communications.

“BTW, the story on [Yancy]caused him to assault one of our janitors today,” the email reads. “Not that it was your fault, but people started telling him how good the story was and it triggered something and he hurt someone pretty bad. Crazy isn’t it? I think he is going to get banned from the school or something like that.”

After a concerned reply from The Observer was sent, Henderson responded:

“She will be fine. Was knocked unconscious for a bit but should be back Monday.”

Victim struggles with normal activities

In the hospital last November after the incident, Lareta “Joy” Chrismer was treated for her wounds, which have left scarring on her face. When she arrived home, Officer Margheim took pictures of her wounds and collected her voluntary incident statement.

Chrismer has been dealing with health issues ever since.

“I continue to have night terrors that cause me to wake up scared throughout the night,” Chrismer wrote in the victim statement. “On average, I am only able to get about [four] hours of sleep each night.”

Chrismer has since returned to work at Nicholson, but she reports she can’t physically complete her regular routine to the same degree as she could before the attack.

“I am not able to do my job fully, be active, play with my grandchildren or enjoy the things that I have routinely done for years,” she wrote in her victim statement. “I enjoy golfing year-round and have not been able to do that because of my severe headaches and dizziness.”

Ken Briggs, chair of the department of physical education school and public health, and Chrismer’s boss, declined to comment.

Kenneth Briggs

Kenneth Briggs

Chrismer said she regularly meets with a psychiatrist, as encouraged by the hospital, to help her recuperate.

Despite the assault happening on Central grounds, the Lovelands said Yancy has still been allowed on campus, which, according to Chrismer’s victim statement, has caused her severe stress and emotional harm.

As a result, Chrismer sought a restraining order to keep Yancy away from herself and the Central campus, where Chrismer believes he is likely to attack again, as she wrote in her restraining order request.

On Jan. 21, 2015, Lower Kittitas County District Court granted a protective order.

The order restrains Yancy from being within 500 feet of Chrismer’s residence and 100 feet of Chrismer herself. It also bars him access to Nicholson and the parking lot immediately south for an entire year.

Chrismer reports she is also suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and memory issues. She is also concerned about Yancy’s state of mental health and his ability to be a responsible citizen.

“I believe it is not reasonable for Mr. Yancy to continue to be allowed to injure innocent citizens and then not be required to get help to stop this type of behavior,” Chrismer wrote in the victim impact statement.

Chrismer declined to be interviewed at length for this story.

Nicholson assault one of many for Yancy

Michael Comte, clinical social worker, wrote an evaluation that lays out a history of school problems and violence.

Bryan Yancy was born Dec. 24, 1988 in Palo Alto, Calif. His birth father has been described as a “homeless drug addict” and his birth mother as a “paranoid schizophrenic,” according to Comte’s competency evaluation.

While residing with his birth mother, Yancy was kept in a box under a table, the report said.

At the age of 5, Yancy was adopted and placed under the legal guardianship of Dale and Cynthia Loveland. Soon after they became convinced he was autistic. Yancy was formally diagnosed at the age of 6.

Yancy can recite all the capitals of countries in the world, according to Comte’s evaluation, yet he can’t do simple tasks such as tie his shoes. Yancy has an I.Q. score of 55.

Before being placed in the Lovelands’ custody, Yancy was unable to walk upright, “was not toilet trained and drank water from a dog dish,” Comte’s report said.

Following placement with the Lovelands, Yancy quickly reached developmental milestones and was promptly enrolled in the Ellensburg school system, Comte wrote. When Yancy was in the fifth grade, Cynthia Loveland became frustrated with what she said was Yancy’s teacher’s lack of understanding of autism, according to Comte. She decided to move Yancy to junior high.

“District personnel thought the move might be positive, because he would be with an older group of students and may mimic more mature behavior,” Comte wrote in his evaluation.

Cynthia Loveland claimed Yancy’s middle school teachers were not sufficiently meeting his needs. She petitioned for a paraeducator, but conflict arose when “Bryan referred to his aide as his teacher, which angered the teacher.”

After the incident, Cynthia and Yancy separated from Dale and moved with Yancy to Seattle, where he was enrolled in McClure Middle School. Following graduation from middle school, Yancy was enrolled in a program for autistic students at Garfield High School. However, the teacher quit before the school year began. A series of substitutes proved to be unable to fulfill Yancy’s educational needs, Cynthia Loveland said.

Cynthia then moved Yancy to Ingraham High School in north Seattle, where she claimed there was “supervisory neglect.” “On one occasion, she discovered him wandering outside the building. On another occasion, he complained to his mother he choked on an apple and there was no one to assist him,” Comte reported.

Yancy’s first incident of violence occurred when he attacked the Ingraham High School principal, whom Yancy had reportedly developed a “fixation” with. Yancy was then expelled.

Cynthia returned Yancy to Ellensburg and enrolled him in Ellensburg High School (EHS).

“Despite intermittent explosiveness and disruptive behavior, [Cynthia] said his adjustment was generally positive,” Comte reported. “She said she is upset by the fact there is constant emphasis on ‘three bad days and not the 124 successful days [of school].’ ”

The second violent incident occurred when Yancy developed another fixation, this time with a female student.

“He was extremely assaultive with her, and was observed ‘kicking her in the face and head.’ She was examined at the hospital. Fortunately, she was not severely injured,” Comte reported.

Yancy was suspended for 10 days.

Following this incident, Cynthia and the case manager with the Division of Developmental Disabilities made requests for a case aide to be assigned to Yancy.

“[Cynthia] said she was told ‘wait until there’s another incident’ and school personnel would then consider the need for one-on-one supervision,” Comte reported.

Yancy was involved in another incident on March 1, 2005, which he describes as the “geography brawl,” where he assaulted a vice principal and teacher.

“While in the classroom, he allegedly abruptly tipped over a table and attacked one of the [teachers],” Comte reported. “Witnesses indicated threats to assault and actual assaultive behavior seemed at times to occur without antecedents or provocation.” Yancy was expelled from EHS. The court ordered a competency evaluation of Yancy in which Comte deemed him legally incompetent, and thus unable to stand trial.

No charges were ever brought against Yancy.

“In my opinion Bryan does not satisfy the legal competency standard and cannot assist counsel in his defense. I am requesting the court allow Bryan to remain outside the courtroom,” Comte concluded.

“In my opinion, he could not cope with an appearance before the court. His presence could very well result in a ‘meltdown,’ extreme agitation, and possibly aggression. Despite behavior problems he has experienced, [Yancy’s] long term prognosis is positive.”

CWU allows attacker on campus

According to Central’s Student Conduct Code, Bryan Yancy could be in violation of at least three parts of the student code of conduct.

Violations for such conduct, according to Richard DeShields, associate dean of students, vary on a case-by-case basis. It could be as simple as a suspension, and as severe as expulsion from the university.

University officials work with police officers and reports from the city or county to make an informed decision. They also assign a case worker, schedule a hearing with the student and conduct an independent investigation of the matter before making a decision.

DeShields refused to discuss any particulars regarding Yancy’s case.

Richard DeShields

Richard DeShields

According to his parents, Yancy is currently serving a suspension on a quarter-by-quarter basis, and has regular weekly meetings with DeShields to track his progress. He has the possibility of having his suspension reduced.

Cases of this magnitude usually result in a year suspension, or longer, DeShields said.

During his suspension, Yancy is allowed inside Black Hall to use the computer lab and the SURC at noon for lunch, Cynthia Loveland said.

The protective order issued by the Kittitas County District Court bars Yancy from being within 100 feet of Joy Chrismer. The order also bars him from Nicholson and the parking lot directly south.

DeShields said Central must follow all legal directives handed down by the courts.

“A court order may say that a student can’t be within 100 feet of the campus,” DeShields said. “In many instances, court orders do not go that far, and they’ll specifically say, within a certain amount of feet of an individual, so at that point there really is nothing in the state that allows them to not have access to certain resources.”

DeShields said as far as previous incidents go, any violation while registered as a student stays on that student’s record, and could compound if further violations were recorded.

“If a situation happens somewhere else, prior to a student being a student or being enrolled, or even being associated with the university, the university doesn’t necessarily have access to that information,” DeShields said. “We can’t make decisions on things we don’t have.”

DeShields said he thinks that Central needs to take a look at its policy and ensure that students are not only safe, but that everyone’s rights are considered equally.

“I do think that the university should try to do everything possible to keep communities safe,” DeShields said.

Despite Chrismer and others believing Yancy is a threat to the students and staff at Central, DeShields said this incident is isolated and the actions taken are the best for all parties involved.

Dale and Cynthia Loveland, and their attorney, believe Yancy isn’t a threat to society.

“I’d go to jail with him if I thought it would cure him,” Dale Loveland said. “But it won’t.”

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