SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A 13-year-old boy diagnosed with Asperger syndrome was shot by police after his mother called 911 and explained that her son was young, unarmed, and experiencing a mental health crisis, CNN reports.
The disturbing situation unfolded Friday, September 4 when Golda Barton returned to work for the first time in nearly a year. Barton explained to reporters that her 13-year-old son, Linden Cameron, suffers from separation anxiety and was having trouble coping, so she called 911 for assistance.
Barton described her conversation with the 911 operator, telling reporters, “I said, ‘Look, 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 went on to say when police arrived, her son ran away and she heard one of them shout, “get down on the ground” three times, followed by several gunshots.
“Why didn’t they tase him? Why didn’t they shoot him with a rubber bullet?” Barton told reporters. “He’s a small child. Why don’t you just tackle him? You are big police officers with massive amounts of resources.”
During a Saturday, September 5 news conference, Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Keith Horrocks said officers had been called to the area because a boy was having a “psychological episode and had made threats to some folks with the weapon.”
The boy fled and as police chased after him, one officer fired their weapon and struck the boy, Horrocks said. Officers provided medical aid to the boy until medical personnel arrived, Horrocks said. He was then taken to a local hospital in serious condition, according to police.
Barton says her son suffered nerve damage as well as injuries to his shoulder, ankles, intestines, bladder and colon as a result of the incident.
While Barton maintains that her son was unarmed, Detective Greg Wilking, a spokesperson for the Salt Lake City Police Department, told reporters that he could not confirm whether the boy had a weapon or “what the officers’ perceived threats were.”.
“Mom can say whatever she wants, but there’s this investigation that has to happen and this process that has to take place,” Wilking said.
The incident is being investigated by a team consisting primarily of officers from the West Valley City Police Department, according to Wilking.
Their findings will be turned into the district attorney’s office, who will then conduct a separate investigation. The city also has a civilian review board that investigates complaints regarding police conduct.
“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,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement.
“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.”
Aspergers is currently defined as an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by impaired social interaction, repetitive patterns of behavior and restricted interests, as well as normal language and cognitive development but poor conversational skills and difficulty with nonverbal communication.
According to The Washington Post, 197 of the 999 people shot by police during 2019 had a disability.