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Autistic Teenager Shot by Police During Crisis Intervention Call

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The mother of an autistic teen is speaking out after her son was shot by cops on Sept. 4 as they responded to her call for help. Golda Barton said her son, 13-year-old Linden Cameron, was having a breakdown and she called law enforcement officers to ask for a crisis intervention team.

“I said, ‘Look, he’s unarmed. He doesn’t have anything. He just gets mad and he starts yelling and screaming,'” she told CNN affiliate KUTV.

The incident happened in Salt Lake City, Utah where Cameron’s mother said he is now recovering from injuries to his shoulder, ankles, intestine and bladder.

Barton explained to KUTV that when police arrived, the teen ran away and she heard officers telling him to get on the ground before they fired several rounds of ammunition.

Salt Lake City Police has since released a statement regarding the incident saying that Cameron was shot by one officer after multiple cops responded to a report of a child having a psychological episode who had made threats with a weapon.

However, according to several reports, it’s unclear whether Cameron actually had a weapon or not. Barton says he didn’t. Police say it’s too early in the investigation.

The city’s mayor, Erin Mendenhall, is also responding to the incident saying, “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.”

Previous studies have shown that interactions with police can be dangerous or even deadly for people on the spectrum. In a story for MedicalXpress in 2019, one child development expert explained why encounters can go wrong.

“Adolescents and adults with autism may respond inappropriately to questions or commands from a police officer or get agitated, which could then lead to a response from the police officer that could jeopardize the safety of that individual,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.

Autism advocates say more training is needed for police to de-escalate and properly respond to incidents where an individual is having a breakdown.

As for the shooting of Linden Cameron, police say reviewing and releasing body cam footage is next, and no updates in the investigation are expected until then.

Header image via hansslegers/Getty Images

Originally published: September 9, 2020
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