Salt Lake City Police allegedly fired several rounds into a 13-year-old autistic child last Friday. Now, advocates and Linden Cameron’s family are pushing for accountability.
“He was running away,” the boy’s mother, Golda Barton, told local CBS affiliate KUTV. “He was running away.”
“This is how to deal with people with mental health issues,” she added later. “So, you call them, and they’re supposed to come out and be able to deescalate a situation using the most minimal force possible.”
Others criticized that line of thought, suggesting that people call 9-1-1 “too often” in similar situations.
“Too often we are given the advice to call 911/police when a loved is having a mental health crisis,” autism acceptance advocates Neurodiverse Utah said in a statement. “But with 25% of those killed by police being mentally ill and near 50% being disabled calling police is too great a risk.”
The organization went on to cite research by the Columbia Journalism Review that says people with “untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police.”
Barton says she called 911 on the night in question because Cameron, who is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, was having a mental breakdown due to “bad separation anxiety” issues. She claims to have asked for a CIT team that would transport her son for mental health treatment to stem the crisis apparently caused by her returning to work for the first time in nearly a year.
“I said, ‘He’s unarmed. He doesn’t have anything. He just gets mad and he starts yelling and screaming,’” Barton said. “He’s a kid. He’s trying to get attention. He doesn’t know how to regulate.”
Cameron’s mother stayed outside of their home while several officers entered the premises to subdue him.
Less than five minutes later, Barton says, she heard a voice scream for her son to “get down on the ground.”
That demand was followed by several gunshots.
“During a short foot pursuit, an officer discharged his firearm and hit the subject,” Sgt. Keith Horrocks said in a statement.
Barton was appalled that her call led to the use of such force.
“He’s a small child. Why didn’t you just tackle him?” Barton told KUTV through tears on Sunday. “He’s a baby. He has mental issues.”
“Why didn’t they tase him?” she went on to ask. “Why didn’t they shoot him with a rubber bullet? You are big police officers with massive amounts of resources. Come on. Give me a break.”
Barton said that police handcuffed her son after he was bleeding from the multiple gunshot wounds. She said officers initially did not say whether he was dead or alive. She’s also furious that the department has allegedly stonewalled her about why Cameron was shot in the first place.
Cameron is currently in critical but stable condition.
“The shooting has left Linden in the hospital with injuries to his shoulder, both ankles, intestines, and bladder,” a GoFundMe for Cameron’s medical bills said. “The long term effects of his injuries are still unknown, but it is likely that his recovery will be long and require multiple kinds of treatment.”
“He loves video games, four wheeling, and longboarding with his older brother, and building things,” the fundraiser continued. “He is always looking for ways to help people out.”
According to Sgt. Horrocks, police were called to deal with a “violent psych issue” involving a “male juvenile” who was allegedly “having a mental episode” and “making threats to some folks with a weapon.”
Horrocks declined to say whether the alleged “weapon” was found. He said that, so far, he didn’t know if there was to evidence to support that.
A Salt Lake City ordinance requires that body camera footage be released within 10 business days of a shooting incident. Police say they’ll release more information within that time frame.
Elected officials have also taken note of the shooting.
“While the full details of this incident are yet to be released as an investigation takes place, I will say that I am thankful this young boy is alive and no one else was injured,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall (D) told the Salt Lake Tribune. “No matter the circumstances, what happened on Friday night is a tragedy, and I expect this investigation to be handled swiftly and transparently for the sake of everyone involved.”
[image via screengrab/KUTV]
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