A 13-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome in Salt Lake City was shot by police on Friday after his mother called for help with a mental episode, marking another incident between law enforcement and people with mental illnesses as protests demanding institutional reform in policing continue worldwide.
On Friday, the boy’s mother called police to request a crisis intervention team to help with a “mental breakdown” that occurred after she returned back to work for the first time in nearly a year, cautioning that he was unarmed, according to her account to KUTV.
The boy was shot by a responding officer after he ran away, with the mother saying in a GoFundMe campaign that the attack caused injuries to his shoulder, both ankles, intestines and bladder.
In a briefing with the press on Sunday, a representative for the Salt Lake City police said the officers thought the boy “made threats to some folks with a weapon,” but the Salt Lake Tribune reported that no weapon was found at the scene on Friday.
“He’s a small child,” the mother told KUTV on Sunday. “Why didn’t you just tackle him? He’s a baby. He has mental issues.”
In a statement on Sunday, 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.”
The incident follows the recent outrage around the death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, on March 23, when officers responding to a mental health crisis put a spit hood over his head, slammed him to the ground where he was held for two minutes, and then taken to a hospital where he was declared brain dead and died a week later.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro tweeted on Tuesday, “This incident demands a full investigation. There’s no reason an armed officer should be responding to calls like this.”
Black Lives Matter protests against systemic racism and police brutality have surged since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day. Protesters are calling for reform, defunding or dismantling of police departments over continuing widespread issues like the mishandling of mental health episodes and lack of accountability. On Tuesday, the chief and deputy chief of Rochester’s police force announced they would retire after days of protests sparked by the death of Prude. Chief La’Ron Singletary initially told Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren that Prude died of an overdose. An autopsy instead ruled the death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” Excited delirium and intoxication from a small amount of PCP were identified as contributing factors.