Georgia police shoot LGBTQ student during mental health crisis
Scout Schultz, killed by police officers this past weekend, was president of the Pride Alliance, an LGBTQ student group at Georgia Tech. | Pride Alliance

Georgia Tech student, Scout Schultz, 21, was shot and killed by police Saturday, Sept. 16, after a 911 call reported a person with a knife and a gun on the downtown Atlanta campus at 11:17 p.m. Officers first encountered a disoriented Schultz in the middle of a mental health crisis, as the student was caught seen walking barefoot outside of a campus dorm. Schultz was wielding a small knife but had no gun on hand.

According to a report released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, police gave Schultz a verbal warning before shooting. The report states that “Officers provided multiple verbal commands and attempted to speak with Shultz, who was not cooperative and would not comply with the officers’ commands”.

Footage from a nearby video camera also shows Shultz slowly advancing on on the officers while screaming, “Just shoot me.” Both officers traded words with the student, one shouting “Drop the knife, come on,” and the other yelling “Nobody wants to hurt you,” before eventually opening fire. Shultz was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital shortly thereafter, where he died.

The fourth-year engineering student from Lilburn, Ga. was a known LGBTQIA+ activist on campus and a leader in the community. Schultz was openly intersex and went by they/them pronouns. Schultz’s father, William, boasted that his child was an exceptionally bright student with a 3.9 GPA and was scheduled to graduate in December. The family was grief-stricken over the news of their child’s death.

In an announcement about the incident on Facebook, The Pride Alliance student organization at Georgia Tech, of which Schultz was the president, spoke about the impact they had on the community, “We are all deeply saddened by what has occurred. They have been the driving force behind Pride Alliance for the past two years. They pushed us to do more events and a larger variety events, and we would not be the organization we are known as without their constant hard work and dedication.”

Family and friends mourned Schultz during a campus-wide vigil in honor of the student on Monday night.

During a press conference, Schultz’s family’s attorney said the student was experiencing a “mental breakdown” on the night of the shooting. “What was Scout doing that day?” said attorney, L. Chris Stewart. “Standing there disoriented, having a mental breakdown and was shot from 20 feet away.”

The incident has further fueled the ongoing debate about police violence in the face of mental health crises.

For years, local and state organizers have called for more pragmatic responses to mental health emergencies; especially in instances of preventable violence. Just last year, the Washington Post released an analysis of the 462 police shooting deaths it counted in the United States in the first six months of 2015. The report found that “one-fourth of those deaths involved people in the throes of emotional or mental crisis.”

The analysis signifies the scale of the problem of untrained responses from police forces toward people who may suffer from mental health issues, much like Schultz.


CONTRIBUTOR

Michelle Zacarias
Michelle Zacarias

Michelle Zacarias is a staff writer at People's World. A graduate of the Univ. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Zacarias has invested her time in raising awareness on issues of social justice and equality. She has written and conducted research in several parts of the world; most recently Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where she presented on disability awareness at the U.S. Consulate. Michelle self identifies as multi-marginalized: as a Latina, a woman of color and a person with disabilities. She considers her experiences a privilege, one that she hopes to use as a platform for spreading socio-political consciousness. In her spare time Michelle enjoys drinking pricey wines and watching old school zombie flicks.  

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