Groundswell of support for custodian accused of outburst

WANTAGH - The Wantagh community is rallying behind a part-time high school custodian who lost his job for allegedly making threatening comments. Mel Turner, 45, who is autistic, says a group of kids were bullying him off of school grounds over the summer. He said the kids were cursing and teasing him. When he walked home that day, he saw a different group and allegedly threatened to blow up the school. The kids recorded Turner's outburst, in which he's also heard saying he wants to "break all the windows." They turned the recording over to Wantagh High School officials, who called police and sent Turner for a mental evaluation. He was suspended and then fired.Turner's friend and neighbor, Patrick Ryder, says Turner was merely venting after suffering verbal abuse at the hands of some cruel kids. Ryder says his friend has never, and would never, hurt anyone.Many in the community are speaking out against the firing, saying an autistic person who has been bullied doesn't deserve to be fired.Turner says he just wants his job back. "I didn't mean what I said. I feel bad," he says. "I promise I will never say it again, and I need a second chance at my job."

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