- A mother in Salt Lake City, Utah called police late Friday to help transport her 13-year-old son with Asperger’s syndrome, which falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder, to a hospital during a mental health crisis.
- However, when her son ran from authorities, one officer fired at him several times, causing injuries to his shoulder, both ankles, intestines, and bladder.
- Police said they are investigating but were responding to a “violent psych issue” involving a juvenile who “had made threats to some folks with a weapon.”
- His mother claims she warned them ahead of time, saying: “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.”
- Salt Lake City police have repeatedly come under fire for their use of force this year, and this case has highlighted concerns about police handling mental health calls.
Mother’s Account of What Happened
Police in Salt Lake City, Utah are under fire for how they handled a mental health call involving a minor.
Late Friday, Golda Barton called police to request that a crisis intervention team help transport her 13-year-old son to the hospital for treatment. Her son, Linden Cameron, has Asperger’s syndrome, which falls under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder, and was experiencing what she described as a “mental breakdown” at the time.
As far as why he was in such distressed, Barton explained that it was the first day she had returned to work after almost of year, and her son struggles with separation anxiety. When on the phone with authorities, she told KUTV that she 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.”
When police arrived, she says she was told to stay where she was while two officers entered the home through the front door. Within minutes, she said she heard voices yelling, “Get down on the ground,” followed by several gunshots.
She told local reporters that officers fired at her son after he tried to run away. She added that her first thought was that her son was dead and noted that officers did not immediately reassure her that he wasn’t. She also claimed that her son was put in handcuffs.
Police Account of the Incident
As far as how authorities have described the incident, in a press briefing early Saturday, Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Keith Horrocks said officers were called to the scene shortly after 10 p.m.
He said they were responding to a “violent psych issue” involving a juvenile who “had made threats to some folks with a weapon.” Without naming Cameron, he said the boy fled from the address and one officer fired at him during a “short foot pursuit.”
When asked by reporters if a weapon was recovered, he said there was no indication that the subject had a weapon, but stressed that the investigation was in its early stages. That’s something another department spokesperson later told CNN, saying: “Mom can say whatever she wants, but there’s this investigation that has to happen and this process that has to take place.”
On the scene, Officers rendered aid to Cameron until he was taken to the hospital in serious condition. According to a GoFundMe page created by a family friend, the boy suffered injuries to his shoulder, both ankles, intestines, and bladder.
“The long term effects of his injuries are still unknown, but it is likely that his recovery will be long and require multiple kinds of treatment,” the page reads.
Shooting Sparks Conversations About Police Responding Mental Health Calls
When speaking to KUTV, Barton criticized police for how they handled the incident, questioning why they didn’t use less aggressive tactics.
“Why didn’t they tase him? Why didn’t they shoot him with a rubber bullet?” He’s a small child. Why don’t you just tackle him? You are big police officers with massive amounts of resources. Come on, give me a break,” she said.
Now, this case has added to the widespread frustrations with police, and it’s being used to highlight concerns about officers responding to mental health calls.
According to research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, people with disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum, are disproportionately injured in interactions with the police and are five times more likely to be incarcerated than people in the general population.
Neurodiverse Utah, a grassroots organization that promotes autism acceptance and self-advocacy, said in a Facebook statement that people are less likely to be able to think rationally and respond promptly when they are experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Police were called because help was needed but instead more harm was done when officers from the SLPD expected a 13-year-old experiencing a mental health episode to act calmer and collected than adult trained officers,” it added.
As for what comes next with this case, the department stated Tuesday that the investigation is being conducted by “a protocol team made up of officers from multiple agencies with no ties to the Salt Lake City Police Department.”
The city’s review board and the police department’s internal affairs division will also conduct “parallel separate investigations.” Police said they did not anticipate having any further updates until bodycam footage is released, which occurs within 10 business days from the incident.
Still, those statements have done little to help ease concerns since police in the city are already heavily criticized by members of the community. The city is still reeling the fatal police shooting of Bernardo Palacios Carbajal, who was struck by bullets 13-15 times when running from police while armed.
Protests broke out in early July after the district attorney’s office determined that the shooting was justified, prompting Gov. Gary Herbert to declare a state of emergency.
Then in August, authorities suspended the use of police dogs in arrests after one bit a man named Jeffrey Ryans while he was on one knee with his hands in the air.
Last month, the city’s mayor Erin Mendenhall signed an executive order that aimed to restrict the use of force by police and promote de-escalation tactics, among other reforms. It was to take effect no later than Saturday, the day after Cameron was shot.
As far as this specific incident, Mendenhall issued a statement Sunday 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.”
See what others are saying: (NPR) (KUTV) (The New York Times)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.