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Mother Calls 911 for Assistance With 13-Year-Old Autistic Son; Police Arrive and Shoot Him

Barton told KUTV that she informed police that Cameron has Asperger’s syndrome and was experiencing separation anxiety because she had just returned to work for the first time in a year.

She told police that Cameron was “unarmed” and “he just gets mad and starts yelling and screaming .... He’s a kid. He’s trying to get attention. He doesn’t know how to regulate.”

Barton said two officers entered her home. Cameron ran. She heard someone yell, “get down on the ground” three times. Then she heard several gunshots. The boy’s injuries include damage to his shoulder, ankles, intestines, bladder, and colon, as well as nerve damage.

Barton added, “Why didn’t they tase him? Why didn’t they shoot him with a rubber bullet? He’s a small child. Why don’t you just tackle him? You are big police officers with massive amounts of resources.”

Salt Lake City Police Department (“SLPD”) Sergeant Keith Horrocks informed reporters that police were called to the area in response to “a violent psych issue [involving a juvenile] making threats to some folks with a weapon.” But Horrocks confirmed that there was no indication of a weapon found at the scene.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said, “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. No matter the circumstances, what happened on Friday night is a tragedy.”

Neurodiverse Utah, a grassroots organization that promotes autism acceptance, released a statement: “Police were called because help was needed but 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.”

This shooting is one in a long line of tragedies demonstrating why police are best not to respond to a person experiencing a mental health crisis; instead, advocates are calling for social workers and/or mental health workers to be first responders to these calls in lieu of police. Cops in this case and others were simply not up to the task. 

 

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