Autistic people may have poor eye contact or engage in repetitive behaviors, which may strike police officers as suspicious. They also might be slow to react to police commands, which can cause a routine stop to spin out of control. In Greenville, South Carolina, one news account tells of an autistic man named Tario Anderson: “Officers said they saw Anderson walking on the sidewalk and tried him to question him. They said when they put a spotlight on Anderson, he put his hands in his pockets, started walking the other way and eventually started running from them. He was shocked with a Taser and arrested because he didn’t follow the officers’ commands.”[i] Anderson is also African American, which adds another dimension to the story. In the wake of incidents in which African Americans had died at the hands of white police officers, one father wrote of his autistic son: “What if my son pulling back from a cop is seen as an act of aggression? What if a simple repetitive motion is mistaken for an attempt at physical confrontation? If a cop is yelling at my son and he doesn’t respond because he doesn’t understand, what’s stopping the cop from murdering my boy in cold blood?”[ii]
Salt Lake City’s mayor is promising a swift and transparent inquiry into the police shooting of a juvenile Friday.
According to police, they were called shortly after 10 p.m. to a home near 500 South and Navajo Street, where a boy having a “mental episode … made threats to some folks with a weapon.” The boy ran and police pursued. One officer shot the boy.
Police have not identified the person who was shot, but family members said 13-year-old autistic boy Linden Cameron was shot several times, and Salt Lake Mayor Erin Mendenhall referred to him as a “young boy” in a statement she released Sunday. He was listed in serious condition.
No weapon was found Friday, and police did not reply to questions about the shooting Monday morning.
“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,” Mendenhall said in her statement. “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.”
According to a GoFundMe page launched to help pay for the boy’s medical bills, Linden Cameron suffered injuries to his shoulder, both ankles, intestines and bladder. “Linden is 13 years old. He loves video games, four-wheeling, and longboarding with his older brother, and building things. He is always looking for ways to help people out. Linden is very important to his family, and his mother and brother are supporting him through his recovery.”