Salt Lake City residents are shaken after a local police officer riddled a young autistic child with bullets, raising severe doubts over law enforcement’s ability to respond to mental health crises.
Linden Cameron, 13, is in serious condition after police responded to a “mental episode” by firing at the young boy. A Salt Lake City police officer was responding to a request for a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) in Glendale, Utah, on Friday night when the incident occurred.
The young teen sustained life-changing injuries after being struck in his shoulder, both ankles, bladder, and intestines, his mother, Golda Barton, told KUTV.
“He’s a small child. Why didn’t you just tackle him?” Barton said between tears in a Sunday interview. “He’s a baby. He has mental issues.”
Police have been slow to explain what exactly occurred pending an ongoing investigation of the shooting. The mayor of Salt Lake City has strongly urged the police to respond urgently in their investigation.
“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,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The grief-stricken mother explained that she called 911 on Friday in hopes that emergency responders could hospitalize her young boy, who has Asperger syndrome and was suffering a mental crisis. She was told that the CIT would carefully deescalate the situation using minimal force.
Barton had just returned to work after being gone for over a year due to her parental duties, mainly because her son has a debilitating case of separation anxiety, she said. When he finally suffered a mental breakdown, Barton new that a CIT was needed to hospitalize Cameron and give him proper treatment.
Police shot a 13-year-old boy who was experiencing a mental health episode. Police were called because help was needed…
The loving mother was careful and specific in instructing officers what to do.
“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.”
When two officers arrived at the front door of her home, Barton was informed that she should stay on the scene. Within less than five minutes, she heard officers screaming “get down on the ground” before firing their weapons several times into her son.
As Barton begged officers to let her know if her son was dead or alive, the officers promptly handcuffed him.
Barton was later told that after the shooting, one of the officers grabbed his own head in shock and disbelief and said “He’s just a child, what are you doing?”
After the incident, SLPD Sgt. Keith Horrocks described the event as a response to a reported “violent psych issue” involving a “a juvenile that was having a mental episode, a psychotic episode, that had made threats to some folks with a weapon.”
“During a short foot pursuit, an officer discharged his firearm and hit the subject,” Horrocks added.
Local autism advocates have decried the shooting as sadly reflective of law enforcement’s seeming inability to handle mental health crises.
“Police were called because help was needed but instead more harm was done when officers from the SLPD expected a 13-year-old experiencing a mental health episode to act calmer and collected than adult trained officers,” Neurodiverse Utah said in a brief statement.
Barton described her son as a typical teenager who loves video games, four wheeling and longboarding, a generous spirit who “is always looking for ways to help people out.”
“Why didn’t they Tase him? Why didn’t they shoot him with a rubber bullet?” Barton asked. “You are big police officers with massive amounts of resources. Come on. Give me a break.”
Cameron’s family has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for his medical bills. As of early afternoon Tuesday, the page has managed to raise about $20,000 of the $50,000 goal.
This is the go fund me for my little brother who was wrongly shot by police officers. https://t.co/RUWxWBUODr
— Wesley Barton (@TheBarton) September 7, 2020
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