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Mother of autistic boy shot by police speaks out: 'Why didn't you just tackle him?'

Linden Cameron is in the hospital after getting shot by police, according to his mother. (Photo: Courtesy of Golda Barton)
Linden Cameron is in the hospital after getting shot by police, according to his mother. (Photo: Courtesy of Golda Barton)
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KUTV) – A 13-year-old autistic boy is still recovering in the hospital after getting shot several times by police on Friday night in Glendale.

Linden Cameron had injuries to his shoulder, both ankles, intestines, and bladder, according to his mother, Golda Barton.

As an officer-involved shooting investigation is underway with the Salt Lake City Police Department, the boy's mother told 2News what happened.

Barton said she was the one who called the police and asked for a crisis intervention team (CIT). She said her son, who was Asperger's, was having a mental breakdown. She spoke briefly about how she was told how the CIT would respond:

This is how to deal with people with mental health issues. So, you call them, and they're supposed to come out and be able to deescalate a situation using the most minimal force possible.

She explained to the CIT that her son was having a mental breakdown and needed to be transported to the hospital for treatment. It was the first day Barton had returned to work in almost a year because she can't be away from her son: "he has bad separation anxiety," she explained. On the phone with officers, Barton told officers the best way to approach her son:

I said, 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 said she was to stay while the two officers went through the front door of the home in the area of 500 S. Navajo Street in the Glendale neighborhood. She said in less than five minutes, she heard "get down on the ground" and several gunshots were heard.

She thought her son was dead and the officers didn't immediately say if he was or was not dead. They handcuffed him, according to Barton. Additionally, she said she heard from someone that the other officer could be seen grabbing his own head in disbelief for what had happened. He said out loud, according to what the mother was told, "He's just a child, what are you doing?"

This account of what happened is all according to Barton. SLCPD said police were called to the area for a report of a "violent psych issue" involving the juvenile "having a mental episode" and "making threats to some folks with a weapon."

Sgt. Horrocks did not say whether a weapon was located. He said he knew of no indication that there was a weapon found but didn't know for sure. According to police policy, the shooting will be investigated by an Officer-Involved Critical Incident protocol team, which was already on scene Saturday morning. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall released a statement on Sunday that read:

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. 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.

In the interview, that aired at 10 p.m. Sunday on 2News, Barton is visibly heartbroken and says:

He's a small child. Why didn't you just tackle him? He's a baby. He has mental issues.

Cameron's father drove down from Iowa immediately after he heard the news on Friday night. He was present in the interview. "He an amazing father," the mother explained. Besides the two of them, Barton said she has no family support in the area. The family only received one card, according to Barton.

Barton showed much appreciation for those who wrote in the card and called it a nice surprise: "We are used to being alone."

Briefly, Barton explained her family faces tragedy after tragedy. She called this incident the tip of the iceberg. She explained Nevada police shot her father in January 2020 – 2News has yet to confirm this fact as of Sunday evening.

The Salt Lake City Police Department issued the following state on Tuesday:

We wanted to provide an update regarding the tragic situation involving the shooting of a juvenile. We are thankful no lives were lost in this incident. Each time there is an officer-involved critical incident in Salt Lake County the officer-involved critical incident protocol is invoked. A protocol team made up of officers from multiple agencies with no ties to the Salt Lake City Police Department conducts an independent investigation. We are cooperating fully with the protocol team assigned to this case.
This is an active and open investigation being conducted by Protocol Team 3 and the District Attorney’s office. The City’s Civilian Review Board and our own Internal Affairs will also conduct parallel separate investigations. As this is an active investigation, we do not anticipate having any further updates until the release of the body-worn camera footage, which occurs within 10 business days from the incident

Salt Lake City lawmakers also issued an official statement on Wednesday. A joint statement by Sen. Luz Escamilla and Reps. Angela Romero and Sandra Hollins read:

We are greatly concerned that a Salt Lake City Police officer shot 13-year-old Linden Cameren, who has autism, this past Friday. When people call the police, we expect professional and compassionate judgement, especially when a child with cognitive disabilities is involved. We feel awful for Linden and his family.
Sadly, the use of force in tense situations where a non-lethal, de-escalation approach would be more effective does significant damage to the relationship between law enforcement and the people they serve. Tragic incidents like this not only change the lives of the family involved, but also impact the community who wants to trust the police for security.
We recognize Salt Lake City officials are best positioned to lead a swift and transparent investigation to understand exactly what happened. The state also has a role in working with law enforcement agencies to review and improve police use of force laws and de-escalation guidelines. We want our first responders to be as prepared as possible to address situations involving our most vulnerable populations.

Archdiocese of Salt Lake City also sent a statement on Thursday:

We offer our prayers for Linden Cameron and his family. Whatever the results of the ongoing investigations, we are heartbroken to see a child caught in our culture of gun violence.
The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City supports and encourages continued discussions with law enforcement about the use of force and legislative action to ensure that the dignity and sanctity of all life is protected throughout our criminal justice system.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for Cameron and his family.

2News Mary Nickles and Kelly Vaughen contributed to this report.

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