SALT LAKE CITY — A woman who called police last week for help getting her son to a hospital as he underwent a mental episode is questioning why an officer opened fire on the 13-year-old boy, shooting him several times.
“He’s a small child,” Golda Barton told KUTV. “Why didn’t you just tackle him? He’s a baby. He has mental issues.”
Barton said she called police to ask for a crisis intervention team Friday night because her son, Linden Cameron, was having a mental breakdown, KUTV reported. Linden has Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects a person’s language and communication skills, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
At a news conference early Saturday, Salt Lake City police Sgt. Keith Horrocks said officers were called just after 10 p.m. to a report of a “violent (psychological) issue involving a male juvenile” who had “made threats to some folks with a weapon.” However, he said no weapon was immediately found and Barton disputed that account, saying that she told police dispatchers her son had no weapon.
“I said, ‘He’s unarmed. He doesn’t have anything. He just gets mad and he starts yelling and screaming,’” Barton told KUTV. “'He’s a kid. He’s trying to get attention. He doesn’t know how to regulate.'”
Police said that Linden fled after they arrived, prompting them to follow. During a short pursuit, an officer fired his gun, injuring Linden’s shoulder, both his ankles, his intestines and his bladder, according to a GoFundMe campaign launched to help pay for his medical expenses.
Barton said that, after the shooting, her son was handcuffed and officers wouldn’t tell her if he had died. He was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, Horrocks said.
Officials with Neurodiverse Utah, an organization that promotes autism acceptance, released a statement Sunday condemning the shooting.
“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,” the statement read. “When experiencing a mental health crisis your ability to think rationally and respond promptly is impaired.”
In a statement obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune, Mayor Erin Mendenhall vowed that the investigation into the shooting would move quickly.
“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.
Authorities continue to investigate the shooting.
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