SALT LAKE CITY — A 13-year-old Utah boy with autism was shot by police after his mother asked for help getting him to a hospital and officers agreed to talk with him, police footage released Monday showed.
The videos show officers firing at him as they chased him from his home down an alley. The boy then collapses to the ground, moaning, “I don’t feel good. I don’t feel good.” His mother had asked for him to be hospitalized for help with his mental health issues.
The Sept. 4 shooting occurred after his mother Golda Barton warned police that her son said earlier that day that he had a gun and had threatened to shoot her male coworker and break windows in the house. But she told officers she thought it was a BB gun or pellet gun.
Officers said they would have to proceed as though the boy did have access to a real gun and treat the threat as real, the videos show. Barton told a police dispatcher her son needed a mental-health worker, and later told officers the boy was “triggered” by seeing police.
“He sees the badge and he automatically thinks you are going to kill him or he has to defend himself in some way,” she said. “He freaks out.”
The video was made public under a Salt Lake City ordinance requiring the release of video from police shootings within 10 business days.
The shooting has raised new questions about how police deal with people with mental health issues amid nationwide calls for police reform. It came hours before new deescalation tactics were due to take effect for Salt Lake City police.
In one video, two officers can be heard discussing whether or not to approach the boy because they were concerned that the incident would result in a shooting.
“Especially when he hates cops, it’s probably gonna end in a shooting,” one officer said.
As officers approach the house, one says he can see movement in the backyard. The officers start to run after the boy — yelling at him to stop and get on the ground. When they catch up to the boy, they ask him to get on the ground again.
The boy ignores their commands and continues walking away before a series of shots ring out.
Barton has said she told dispatchers her son was having a breakdown and she needed help from a crisis-intervention officer.
On the 911 call recording, she said she has called the cops before on her son and that he has previously run away from officers.
“My biggest fear is that, I don’t know I just don’t want him to die,” Barton said. “But the times they’ve came he has been gone like he’ll take off and go running. That’s why I don’t want to go there…I just don’t want to alarm him.”
The Salt Lake City officers who arrived had some mental-health training but were not specialists in crisis intervention. There were no indications that he had a weapon.
Linden, who the family wants to be referred to only by his first name, was lucky to be alive after suffering “pierced organs” and “shattered bones,” his attorney Zach Weyher has said.
The mayor of Salt Lake City, Erin Mendenhall, said she is the mother of a 14-year-old boy. She called the shooting a tragedy as she called for a quick but thorough investigation.
“I am profoundly heartbroken and frustrated,” she said. “It’s a tragedy for this young boy, for his mother and for families and individuals who have acute mental health needs.”
Sophia Eppolito And Lindsay Whitehurst, The Associated Press