When Sharon French heard news reports and saw online video of her son Rory during an alleged hate crime, she couldn't believe it.
“I was, like, you got to be kidding me. There’s no way, that didn’t happen, that wasn’t him, that couldn’t have been him,” French said. “And sure enough it was. Talk about shock.”
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Rory French, 41, is accused of targeting and trying to assault an African America employee at a Parkland Denny's on the night of October ninth. French was caught on cell phone video repeatedly trying to attack the man, yelling racial slurs and fighting with a customer trying to stop him.
But Sharon French blames the incident on her son's struggle with traumatic brain injury and mental illness, which began in 1996 -- not on racism.
“That is not the boy I raised,” she said in an interview Monday. “That is not who he is. When he did it, I couldn’t believe it.”
In 1996, when Rory French was 18, he was driving his new truck with two friends. He was hit by a drunken driver with multiple DUI convictions who wasn’t supposed to be driving, but who got ahold of the keys to a family member's car.
“He got in the car, went and got drunk, and was going the wrong way on the on the 512 freeway and hit Rory and his two buddies head on.”
The drunken driver died. Rory French suffered severe brain damage that left him comatose. Sharon French says her son survived but was forever changed.
“When he was in his coma they said that he’ll wake up either one of two ways. Mister lovey dovey, and stay that way, or he’ll wake up kind of strange, kind of go downhill and just have anger all the time,” said French. “Of course, he had to be the one with anger all the time.”
Sharon French said since then her son has been in and out of trouble with the law. He was convicted of nearly killing her during assault in June of 2017. She says she has struggled with law enforcement agencies, the courts and the state Department of Social and Health Services to get him treatment. Time and time again she says, he spends a short period within the system, but soon his behavior reverts to unexplainable anger and violence getting worse by the year due to epileptic seizures brought on by his injuries.
“I mean the boy I brought up, he was kind, he was gently, he was sweet and soft,” she said. “It’s been really, really hard watching my son that I brought up fade away and somebody else take his place.”
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