Parents of autistic boy speak out after Olive Garden attack

By Tasha Martinez

BOYNTON BEACH, FL (WFLX) - "Resorting to violence and attacking someone because a child has a disability, it's appalling. It's ridiculous."

The parents of an autistic child speak out after a customer lashes out inside a crowded restaurant. The customer was upset the disabled child was making noises nearby.

It started out as a birthday celebration for Sonja Bennett and her soon-to-be 5-year-old son, Samuel, at the Olive Garden in Boynton Beach.

The Bennett family of four tells us they had just finished their meal when Paul Blankfield, who was sitting at the table next to them, complained that their son, Samuel, was making too much noise. "To which, I responded, that my son is autistic, and that we were trying to keep him as calm as possible," said Richard Bennett. "He made some disparaging remark about my son and we exchanged word."

The verbal fight continued with the boy's dad and Blankfield -- both cursing at each other. Then, Richard Bennett says, Blankfield got up from his seat. "He literally jumped from the table, charged, pushing my son to the side and tried to attack me. As I rose from my seat, he grabbed me, pushed me back and struck me,"said Richard.

He says Blankfield hit him on the neck. Sonja says she quickly got in between them while others in the restaurant did the same. Richard says that's when he called police.

"My son wasn't being disruptive. He wasn't running around. He was sitting at the table. He raised his voice a few times. No one complained. No one asked to be moved," Richard said.

Boynton Beach Police arrested Blankfield and charged him with simple battery.

According to the police report, on the way back to the police station, Blankfield told them, "You know what, good for him. He gets what he deserved, an autistic kid."

The Bennett family tell us his reaction proves to them there needs to be more understanding of children with autism. "Have people just be more tolerant, have them understand that children with autism respond that way because they're in pain," said Sonja. "They don't want to do those things. It's just that they can't communicate in traditional ways.

"In after thought, hopefully, he realized how ridiculous this whole situation was," Richard concluded.

Paul Blankfield is now out of jail on bond. We called him for a statement earlier Monday, but he did not return our phone call.

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