Au-Juna Banks-Taylor – May, 2012

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The 9-year-old autistic boy who was struck and killed on U.S. 60 Saturday night had wandered away from home earlier and was being sought by Mesa police.

The boy, Au-Juna Banks-Taylor, had been playing with siblings in the courtyard of his apartment complex in the vicinity of the 4200 block of East Main Street in Mesa.

Au-Juna, the second oldest, had two brothers and one sister.

After the siblings returned to the family’s apartment, their aunt, who was babysitting, discovered Au-Juna was not present, and a cousin went looking for him. Police received a missing-persons call at 6:35 p.m., said Mesa police Sgt. Tony Landato.

At 7:44 p.m., the dispatcher at the state Department of Public Safety received a call about a pedestrian in the freeway’s No. 2 lane, the second lane from the median.

“Thirty seconds later, we got another call saying a pedestrian was struck, in the No. 4 lane when they were struck,” said DPS spokesman Bart Graves.

The No. 4 lane is closest to the freeway’s shoulder.

As the boy walked into the freeway, a number of cars worked hard to avoid hitting him, Graves said.

“Ten to 12 vehicles pulled over to the side of the freeway, and drivers got out of the cars to try to get (the boy) to come to them,” Graves said.

“He puts his hands over his ears, and he’s standing in the No. 4 lane when he was struck head on at a high rate of speed by a Chevy S-10 pickup truck. He was thrown into the air.”

About 7:45 p.m., Mesa police received a call about a child being struck in an eastbound lane of the freeway east of the Gilbert Road exit.

“He was last seen on a scooter, the type that’s a skateboard with handlebars,” Landato said. “The scooter was pushed by foot; there was no motor.”

The boy, who was pronounced dead at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, had been struck by an unidentified motorist, a 52-year-old man who was not charged in the accident.

“There was no indication of improper driving or impairment,” Landato said.

“The kid was on the freeway where he shouldn’t have been, and it’s dark in that portion of the freeway.”

The accident occurred four or five miles from the boy’s home.

The family had moved from an apartment complex in the vicinity of the 1400 block of South Val Vista.

At the previous complex, Au-Juna had recently wandered away on his bicycle and turned up in Val Vista Lakes in Gilbert.

His autism was severe enough that he didn’t speak, the family told police. The scooter has not been found.

“We’re not finding negligence per se on the side of the parents at this point,” Landato said.

“There were no suspicious vehicles or persons seen around the complex. We’ve not uncovered anything suspicious or criminal; we think it was a kid who wandered away.”

The boy’s father, Au-Juna Banks, was out of town Saturday night on his truck-driving job.

“He just learned how to ride his bicycle,” the father said. “I just taught him how to ride without training wheels.”

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