On Friday, a Salt Lake City police officer shot a 13-year-old autistic child several times after his mother called 911 to ask for a crisis intervention team to take him to the hospital during a mental health episode.
Linden Cameron, who is white, is currently hospitalized with injuries to his shoulder, ankles, intestines, and bladder, according to a GoFundMe page his mother set up.
Cameron’s mother, Golda Barton, told local CBS affiliate KUTV that she called the police to report that she needed a crisis intervention after her son, who has Asperger’s, struggled with “separation anxiety” at her need to return to work.
According to Barton, two police officers came to her home, told her to wait inside, and then one of them shot Cameron repeatedly within five minutes of arriving after he fled.
As KUTV reported:
[Barton] thought her son was dead and the officers didn’t immediately say if he was or was not dead. They handcuffed him, according to Barton. Additionally, she said she heard from someone that the other officer could be seen grabbing his own head in disbelief for what had happened. He said out loud, according to what the mother was told, “He’s just a child, what are you doing?”
The police have not released the name of the officer involved in the shooting, or made public the police report, or explained generally why the officer shot the child, or said if he or she would be charged or face any disciplinary action. The department said it would release additional details within 10 business days, which is when local ordinances require bodycam footage be released. During a press conference after the incident, Salt Lake City police Sgt. Keith Horrocks seemed to blame the child for the shooting.
Horrocks said that police were responding to a call regarding “a violent psych issue involving a juvenile male who had made threats.” He would not clarify who made the call or who was threatened by the 13-year-old, but he did allege that the threat was made with a weapon.
“Given the threats of the weapon, they arrived in the area and made contact with this male,” he said. “That male fled on foot away from the address, and during a short foot pursuit, an officer discharged his firearm, striking that subject.”
But the 13-year-old was not found with a weapon, and his mother said she told officers on the phone that her son did not have a weapon.
“I said, he’s unarmed, he doesn’t have anything, he just gets mad and he starts yelling and screaming. He’s a kid, he’s trying to get attention, he doesn’t know how to regulate,” she told KUTV.
The shooting occurred as protests raged across the country over the police killing of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York.* Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, was also in the middle of a mental health crisis when police killed him. Like Cameron’s mother, Prude’s brother was the one who initially called 911 to get him help. It is not unusual for police to kill people with mental disabilities or illness; the Washington Post estimated that a quarter of people killed by police in the U.S. were in the throes of a mental or emotional crisis.
In her interview with the network, Barton repeatedly broke down crying and said she did not understand why police had shot the boy.
“He’s a small child. Why didn’t you just tackle him? He’s a baby. He has mental issues,” she said.
Correction, Sept. 9, 2020: Due to an editing error, this post originally misstated that police shot Daniel Prude. He died of asphyxiation after police physically restrained him.