John Weber described it as the “best holiday gift his family could receive.”
The Weber family and officials with Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas on Tuesday morning announced the establishment of a permanent endowed fund in honor of their late son, Joey.
“Joey was Nancy and my only son,” John Weber said during emotional remarks at a press conference to announce the fund. “We loved him with all of our heart. He meant the world to us. But Joey had autism.”
Joey Weber, 36, was fatally shot by Hays Police in August 2016 after fleeing the scene of a routine traffic stop and disobeying police orders after getting out of his vehicle on Timber Drive. He reportedly had tried to wrestle the gun away from police, who perceived his actions as threatening.
Weber also had an autism-spectrum disorder, a fact law enforcement were unaware of when the incident occurred.
The non-profit organization has set a fundraising goal of $100,000 for the new endowment, which will benefit support services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in northwest Kansas.
“We can’t think of a better way to honor Joey’s legacy than by setting up a fund with an organization that has supported families like ours in northwest Kansas for 50 years,” John Weber said. “We want to thank DSNWK for all they do for the autism community and for being a leader in helping us establish the Joey Weber (endowed fund) in perpetuity. This is the greatest holiday gift our family could receive.”
Tax-deductible donations and pledges can be sent to the DSNWK administrative office, 2703 Hall, Ste. 10, in Hays.
The family — backed by several local legislators — successfully launched a campaign to introduce legislative changes at the State Capitol. Joey’s Law was approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor last spring, becoming effective in July.
Individuals with a qualifying degree of autism can request the Department of Motor Vehicles to place an indicator of the medical condition on the person’s driver’s license, placard or a license plate decal.
Kansas Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, supported Joey’s Law as it made its way through the Senate and said the state has seen interest in the new autism alert vehicle indicators.
“I congratulate those with the foresight to establish this endowment and the legacy established to serve others in Joey’s memory,” Billinger said at Tuesday’s event.
Joey began receiving early intervention therapy at age 3 following his diagnosis, and had received services from DSNWK since high school. He was remembered Tuesday as a kind man “who didn’t have a mean bone in his body,” his father said.
“He was speech-delayed and was afraid of loud noises and crowds. Joey was very intelligent. He was in spelling bees and remembered everyone’s birthday — and especially their ages,” John Weber said. “He had a passion for tractors, combines and birds. He learned to spell by writing dinosaur names and could rattle of all the specs on tractors and combines. Also, he knew all the different birds.
“Joey was a very cautious but a very good driver. Maybe even too cautious, sometimes. He didn’t like to have people beeping at him. Joey did not have a mean bone in his body. He was a very good worker, very conscientious. We want Joey to be remembered for the honest man he was and the justice he stands for.”