A 13-year-old Utah boy with autism was shot dead by police after his mother asked for help to get him to hospital and officers agreed to speak to him.
The videos show officials from Salt Lake City chasing him down an alley after arriving at his home and then yelling at him for coming on the ground. The boy collapses after about 11 shots are fired. He survived but suffered broken bones and pierced organs, the family lawyer said. He stays in the hospital.
His mother, Golda Barton, had warned police that her son had said earlier on September 4 that he had a gun and threatened to shoot her male colleague and break windows in the house, the video showed. But she told the officers she thought it was a BB gun or a pellet gun. There was no evidence that he was armed.
She wanted him to be hospitalized because of his mental health problems.
The officers said they had to act like the boy had access to a real gun, as the videos show. Barton told officers the boy was “triggered” when he saw the police.
“He sees the badge and automatically thinks you’re going to kill him or he has to defend himself somehow,” she said. “He’s freaking out.”
The video was released under a Salt Lake City ordinance that requires video of police shootings to be posted within 10 business days.
The shooting has raised new questions about how police deal with people with mental health problems, while calls for police reform have been raised across the country. It took hours for new de-escalation tactics to come into effect for the Salt Lake City Police, who are working with an independent investigation into the shooting.
In a video, two officers can discuss whether to approach the boy because they fear the incident would lead to a shooting. As officers approach the house, they say he can see movement in the back yard. The officers run after the boy and yell at him to stop and get on the ground. When they catch up, they ask him to get back on the ground. The boy walks on before a series of shots sounded.
The videos don’t appear to show the boy holding a gun, and police don’t mention any in a report that was also released on Monday. Barton said she told dispatchers that her son had broken down and she needed help from a crisis intervention officer.
On the 911 recording, she says that she has called the police on her son before and that he ran away from officers. “My biggest fear is that I don’t want him to die,” said Barton.
She adds, “That’s why we need a psychiatrist … It’s super important.” Arriving officers had mental health training but were not crisis intervention specialists.
Linden, whom the family only wants to identify by his first name, “was lucky enough to be alive,” said his lawyer Zach Weyher.
“Whatever happened, it was a 13 year old boy who was unarmed. The police were called on a mental health call, not a crime, ”Weyher said. “A child is in a hospital bed … there has to be a better response.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall called for a quick but thorough investigation at a press conference Monday.
“I am deeply broken and frustrated,” she said. “It is a tragedy for this boy, for his mother, and for families and individuals with acute psychological needs.”