Salt Lake City police are investigating after officers shot a 13-year-old boy with autism whose mother had called 911 for help.
Golda Barton told KUTV she called police because her son Linden Cameron, who has Asperger’s, was having a mental health episode. Barton, who had just returned to work for the first time in a year, told police her son had “bad separation anxiety” but was unarmed.
“I said, he’s unarmed, he doesn’t have anything, he just gets mad and he starts yelling and screaming,” she told the outlet. “He’s a kid he’s trying to get attention, he doesn’t know how to regulate.”
Barton said two officers entered her home and less than five minutes later she heard them order him to get on the ground followed by several gunshots. Officers didn’t immediately say whether her son was alive and later handcuffed him.
The shooting left Cameron with injuries to his shoulder, both ankles, intestines and bladder according to a GoFundMe which has raised more than $12,000 for Linden’s hospital bills.
“He’s a small child. Why didn’t you just tackle him?” Barton said. “He’s a baby. He has mental issues.”
Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Keith Horrocks told reporters officers were called to the area due to a “violent psych issue” involving a juvenile who was “making threats to some folks with a weapon.”
Horrocks said there was no indication a weapon had been found at the scene but that he did not know for sure if one was found.
The shooting will be investigated by police, according to Horrocks. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she expects the investigation “to be handled swiftly and transparently” in a statement released to local media Sunday.
“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,” she said. “No matter the circumstances, what happened on Friday night is a tragedy.”
The shooting also drew backlash from local mental health advocates.
“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 collected than adult trained officers,” Neurodiverse Utah, a grassroots organization that promotes autism acceptance, said in a statement.
Nationwide, advocates are calling for changes to policing, including an end to the practice of having police officers respond to mental health calls following the death of Daniel Prude, a 29-year-old Black man. Prude was suffering from acute mental health problems when he died of asphyxiation after police officers in Rochester, New York, who tried to take him into protective custody pinned him to the ground while restraining him.