Countless questions remain controversially unanswered after Georgia police shoot a suicidal intersex student at Georgia Tech
Suicidal intersex student Scout Schultz controversially called 911 to provoke police to come and shoot them*, on the evening of September 13. Many questions remain unanswered after the fatal shooting. Consequently, this led to violent riots breaking out on September 18. This shocking violence followed an otherwise peaceful candlelit vigil in memory of the troubled student. Schultz was a 4th year engineering student at Georgia Tech, President of the Pride Alliance but also struggled with mental illness.
The 21-year-old was a well-loved leader in the university’s LGBTQIA community, and members are struggling to process the enormity and shock of what has transpired. Schultz had spent many years coming to terms with being born physically with both sexes present in their body. Consequently, his parents assumed that most of the difficulties faced by their child throughout the years had been overcome.
Suicide by Cop
However, on the fateful evening of the 13th, Schultz would leave three suicide notes, and successfully provoke Suicide by Cop. Video evidence from a nearby witness distinctly showed Schultz demanding that the police shoot them. Schultz also continues to approach the police, despite officers warning him not to.
Nevertheless, most people who witnessed the shocking footage claim that the police should not have used such excessive force. Many have wondered why the police force had not utilized Tasers in this instance, preserving the life of Schultz. While Schultz suggested to the police during the 911 call that there was a gun involved, ultimately they only were brandishing an unopened utility knife.
Certain members of the public believe politics motivated Schultz’s death. They see this as evidence of a police state. When protestors escalated violence after the candlelit vigil, only one of the three individuals arrested, Cassandra Monden was a fellow college student to Schultz. Monden identified as female and was a part of the LGBTQIA community that Schultz led.
Vincent Castillenti is a known member and agitator in the police watchdog group CopWatch. Authorities have arrested Castillenti for similar actions in the past. Jason David Wilson also is not a student. The police have previous charges listed against Wilson also. According to many who attended the vigil, the violence broke out after these external agitators inflamed the grief and anger of those in attendance.
Where were the Tasers?
Schultz’s family condemned the fatal violence. Instead of retaliating, they are requesting that authorities make a thorough investigation into the police handling of the incident. During an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Schultz’s mother Lynne asked: “Why didn’t they use some non-lethal force, like pepper spray or Tasers?” A police spokesman later confirmed that the Georgia Tech police had only recently ordered Tasers. Sadly, however, none were yet in their possession. The spokesman agreed that this would have produced a better outcome.
Attorney Lance LoRusso has previously represented police officers in similar incidents. He believes the public doesn’t understand the complexity of such events. Therefore, he feels, they are not qualified to draw to such simplistic conclusions. LoRusso explained: “People don’t stop in their tracks when they’re shot. Even at 15 to 20 feet, the suspect is very likely to stab him.”
Society is letting down the mentally ill
Suicide by cop has only been studied in recent years, and law experts began coining the phrase only during the 80s. Controversially, the phenomenon seems to have increased since the deinstitutionalization of mentally ill individuals during the 60s. Rather than finding improved alternatives for such people, the system began to systematically fail these seriously unwell individuals.
What is difficult in instances of Suicide by Cop is that occasionally the individuals are willing to kill others to achieve their own loss of life. In these instances, special Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) is necessary for officers. Unfortunately, however, the officer who shot Schultz had not had CIT training. Officer Tyler Beck had only been on the force 16 months.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation hopes that this incident will be the catalyst that improves officer responses to similar events in the future. Nevertheless, many individuals believe there is a deeper and darker more sinister motivation behind the death of Schultz. As for now, we must live with many unanswered questions, and not jump to anecdotal conclusions that initiate further violence.
*Scout Schultz’s nonbinary preferred pronouns were “they, their and them.”