SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City has reached a settlement with the family of a teenager who was shot and wounded by a police officer two years ago.
Linden Cameron, who was 13 at the time, was shot while running from officers the night of Sep. 4, 2020. His mother had called Salt Lake City Police for help because Cameron, who has autism, was having a mental health crisis.
Cameron's parents sued the department in November 2021. A spokesperson for the city confirmed Tuesday that the lawsuit was settled.
"While the settlement is not an admission of liability, the parties agree that [Cameron's] shooting was a tragedy," the city's statement read in part. "The settlement represents combined efforts to reach a compromise that resolves this case outside of formal litigation and provides [Cameron] with resources for long-term, lifetime care."
Details about the settlement, including the monetary amount or any non-monetary damages, were not provided.
The night of the shooting
Cameron's mother, Golda Barton, told the officers who responded that Cameron may have had what she believed was a BB or pellet gun. She also told them her son had previously threatened to shoot one of her coworkers.
In bodycam footage of the incident and their conversation before the chase, the officers who responded to Barton's call told her that if she wasn't sure, they would have to treat the situation as if he had a real gun.
As officers approached the family's home near the area of 500 South and Navajo Street, Cameron ran from officers. After chasing him on foot, one officer fired at least 11 shots after ordering him to show his hands and get on the ground.
He survived, but with extensive and permanent injuries, according to the lawsuit.
In the family's lawsuit against SLCPD, lawyers wrote that Cameron's left arm was paralyzed. It also said he sustained ankle injuries that required "surgery and hardware," internal organ damage, and other injuries. He also suffered "severe emotional and mental anguish and trauma," the lawsuit stated.
It also pointed out that Cameron hadn't committed a crime, nor was he being investigated for one, and that the officer who shot him didn't use any form of de-escalation or less-lethal means of subduing him.
The lawsuit stated that Cameron's mother had called 911 to request a Crisis Intervention Team and a “mental health worker, because he’s sick.” However, four officers were instead dispatched.
"These SLCPD officers were not trained as mental health workers," the lawsuit read. "These SLCPD officers were not trained as crisis intervention team officers. These officers were not certified in Sensory Inclusive Training which is designed to handle foreseeable situations involving people with disabilities like autism. These SLCPD officers did not receive adequate de-escalation training."
The lawsuit alleged that as officers discussed the situation after responding to the area but before going to the house, they "were unable to recall whether the policy even permitted them to approach L.C. under the circumstances."
It stated that one officer even said: "If this is a psych issue, I don’t see why we should even approach... We should call sergeant, because I’m not about to get in a shooting because he’s upset."
Another officer — the one who ultimately shot Cameron — agreed, saying: "Especially when he hates cops, it’s going to end in a shooting."
The boy's mother told police that he may have had what she believed was a BB or pellet gun.
"Despite these voiced concerns, at no time did the officers call a sergeant or seek guidance," the lawsuit reads. "Rather, the officers ... descended on L.C.’s home with their guns drawn."
In addition to the injuries from the shooting, along with the "extreme pain and suffering" and "permanent disfigurement" it caused, the lawsuit also claimed Cameron lost "enjoyment of life."
It also claimed his parents "suffered a loss of filial relationship, including their relational interest such as losses of L.C.’s company, society, cooperation, and affection."
City's statement regarding autism training
The statement given Tuesday by Salt Lake City said it has improved the way in which police respond to situations involving people on the autism spectrum. It read:
"Following the events of September 4, 2020, and because L.C. has Autism, Salt Lake City and the Salt Lake City Police Department moved immediately to provide more comprehensive training for officers on how to best engage with people who have sensory needs. The City partnered with KultureCity to provide Certified Sensory Inclusive training for all of its first responders – SLCPD, SLCFD and 911 Dispatch.
"This advanced training was the first of its kind for a police department in the United States, and has inspired many departments across the nation to embark on the same training.
"Salt Lake City continues its commitment to training its first responders for sensory inclusive needs, and actively seeks out opportunities to provide its first responders with learning tools that help them to best engage with members of the public who rely on them.”