Police shoot 13-year-old boy with autism several times
A 13-year-old boy with autism was shot several times by police officers who responded to his home in Salt Lake City after his mother called for help.
Linden Cameron was recovering in a Utah hospital, his mother said, after suffering injuries to his shoulder, both ankles, his intestines and his bladder.
Golda Barton told KUTV she called 911 to request a crisis intervention team because her son, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was having an episode caused by “bad separation anxiety” as his mother went to work for the first time in more than a year.
“I said, ‘He’s unarmed, he doesn’t have anything, he just gets mad and he starts yelling and screaming,’” she said. “He’s a kid, he’s trying to get attention, he doesn’t know how to regulate.”
She added: “They’re supposed to come out and be able to de-escalate a situation using the most minimal force possible.”
Instead, she said, two officers went through the front door of the home and in less than five minutes were yelling “get down on the ground” before firing several shots.
“He’s a small child,” she said. “Why didn’t you just tackle him? He’s a baby. He has mental issues.”
In a briefing on Sunday, Sgt Keith Horrocks of Salt Lake City police told reporters officers were responding to reports “a juvenile was having a mental episode” and thought Cameron “had made threats to some folks with a weapon”.
Police confirmed they did not find a weapon at the scene.
In a statement to the Salt Lake Tribune, Mayor Erin Mendenhall vowed the investigation would be quick.
“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,” she said.
Across the US, killings of unarmed civilians by police, especially Americans of color, have raised alarm among community groups and stoked ongoing protests. Many say law enforcement responses to public health crises often put the mentally ill at risk.
Protests erupted in Rochester, New York, after body-camera video from March showed police responding to a call about a mental health episode mocking 29-year-old Daniel Prude and putting a hood on his head. Prude, who was Black, died of asphyxiation.
Demonstrators in Aurora, Colorado, have sought justice for 23-year-old Elijah McClain, a Black man who went into cardiac arrest shortly after a paramedic administered ketamine as police officers responded to a suspicious person report.
Body-camera footage contained some of McClain’s last words: “I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all, I’m so sorry.”
As activists call for police resources to be reallocated toward public health initiatives, some cities have shifted emergency response strategies.
Regarding the incident in Salt Lake City, Neurodiverse Utah said in a statement: “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 [more] collected than adult trained officers.”
Barton launched a fundraiser to cover her son’s medical bills. She described Cameron as a typical young boy who loves “video games, four wheeling and long-boarding”. She also demanded answers about why her son was not subdued.
“Why didn’t they Tase him? 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.”
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