SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A slew of unanswered questions surround the shooting of an autistic boy by a Salt Lake City police officer last Friday night. Now a new online petition is calling for that officer to be arrested.
Titled “Justice For Linden Cameron”, the petition on www.change.org claims that the Glendale 13-year-old was unarmed and running away from police when he was shot several times. Allegations that are unconfirmed but very troubling if true.
In a press release, Crisis Intervention Team Utah cites media reports claiming that Linden’s mother called police because her son was having a “mental health episode”. CIT Utah is a non-profit organization that trains, certifies, and supports officers on best practices for crisis response and resolution. Board President Sherri Wittwer told ABC4 News that officers need to understand autism to de-escalate these types of situations.
“Someone who’s experiencing a behavioral health crisis may not respond to commands,” Wittwer said. “If the response includes lights and sirens and shouting and loud noises, that can only further disorient the person in crisis…The lack of making eye contact. There can be so many things involved in that but not having the proper response can escalate that situation rather than de-escalate.”
The agency involved in Friday’s shooting, the Salt Lake City Police Department, does not use CIT Utah’s Training and Certification. They have developed their own in-house crisis response program and in an interview from May of 2019 Detective Joseph Taylor assured me that it’s equal to CIT’s.
“The training is just as rigorous,” Det. Taylor said. “It’s the same material. Like the CIT program, we utilize instructors from the University of Utah. We do site visits to the State Hospital. It’s as rigorous as any training you’re going to find.”
Wittwer calls Friday’s outcome “tragic” and says it underscores why Utah needs a unified and consistent CIT program statewide.
“What we want to see is that there’s a unified program,” she said. “That we have everyone adhering to the best practice standards and that CIT looks the same no matter what part of Utah you live in.”
The Salt Lake City Police Department says the shooting is being investigated by a Civilian Review Board and their own Internal Affairs Department but they won’t comment until the body camera video is released sometime between now and September 21st, ten business days following the incident.