Autistic man dies after confrontation with Fairfax County police at park

An autistic northern Virginia man who was reported missing died Wednesday afternoon after a confrontation with police at a park in Falls Church.

According to police, at around 1 p.m. Wednesday at Roundtree Park, 45-year-old Paul Gianelos was at the park with other people from his group home. Caregivers said he had wandered off and they called police.

Police said they located Gianelos about two miles away wandering along Annandale Road. A 22-year veteran officer who is trained in crisis intervention was the first officer on the scene and was the first to approach Gianelos.

"During this rapport and waiting for the caregiver to respond to the location, for reasons yet to be determined, Mr. Gianelos became physically combative with the officer," said Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler. "The officer then called for backup and three additional officers arrived on the scene. The officers were then able to get Mr. Gianelos under control and they restrained him by using handcuffs behind his back."

Police said they called paramedics because they had a struggle with Gianelos and he went down and scraped his head. They said he was still alert and breathing during this time.

But when the paramedics arrived, police said they witnessed Gianelos going into cardiac arrest and CPR was performed. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The incident remains under investigation.

Gianelos' family said he is profoundly autistic and he cannot speak and would not understand police orders. They are expecting an autopsy on Thursday.