The Shooting of an LGBTQ Activist at Georgia Tech Exposes a Hidden Problem

We were shocked to learn that a student at Georgia Tech was shot this past Saturday after a standoff with the police. Scout Schultz, 21, was brandishing a knife and threatening officers on the college’s campus. According to eyewitnesses and video, Schultz was shouting at the officers, “Shoot me!” One officer replied to Schultz, “Nobody wants to hurt you.” Schultz was eventually shot in the heart by police and died later at the hospital.

The whole drama highlights two separate issues that are deeply entrenched in our society, and recognizing the issues is the first step in addressing both.

Who was Scout Schultz?

Scout Schultz

Scout Schultz | Georgia Tech News Center

Scout Shultz was a beloved student at Georgia Tech and did not identify with any gender. They were a leader at the Georgia Tech in the LGBTQ community. Schulz was considered a “driving force behind the Pride Alliance” who always pushed “more events and a larger variety of events.” Shultz was loved by all their peers, and was well respected. Schultz also suffered from depression and had tried to kill themselves before.

Next: How did things escalate so quickly?

What actually went down

A screen shot of the video that was taken shows Officers and Schultz near the exit of a parking structure

A screenshot of the video that was taken shows officers and Schultz near the exit of a parking structure. | Photo Credit Unknown

Officers were called to the Georgia Tech campus after 911 reports were called in about a student brandishing a knife. Police arrived on the scene with weapons drawn. Police had a brief confrontation with Schultz. Schultz is seen on video advancing towards the police shouting, “Shoot me!” The officers repeatedly asked for Shultz to drop the weapon. One officer then fired his weapon, and Schultz fell to the ground in a heap. This was the converging of two very serious storms coming together in tragedy.

Next: Learn how this is all too common

LGBTQ depression

A man makes his way home at Preston bus station

A man makes his way home at Preston bus station. | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Depression affects approximately 18 million Americans currently, and the rates of depression for members of the LGBTQ community occur at a higher frequency than that of the heterosexual community. The reasons for that are pretty obvious: segregation, a lack of acceptance from their peers, prejudice, hate, bullying, and so on. The LGBTQ community suffers discrimination all their lives, and that sort of bombardment can have lasting impacts. Oftentimes, a cry for help is never made. Those impacts, unfortunately, can become a tragedy all too quickly.

Next: When silence becomes a tragedy

The staggering rate of LGBTQ Suicide

Crisis Service Coordinator Chris Bright (L) looks at a computer monitor with volunteers at the Trevor Project Call Center in West Hollywood, California

Crisis Service Coordinator Chris Bright (L) looks on a computer monitor with volunteers at the Trevor Project Call Center in West Hollywood, California. | Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Depression obviously can lead down some dark roads, and the darkest road, suicide, is all too common in the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ members are four times more likely to kill themselves. Suicide is also the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 years old. This is a large part of our younger population being taken away from us. The methods of suicide range, but sometimes they can involve a police officer being “forced” to use their firearm.

Next: The shocking numbers of an all-too-common trend

‘Suicide’ by police

A woman holds her hands up in front of a police car

A woman holds her hands up in front of a police car | Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Currently, there is no definitive number for the number of suicide-by-cop deaths that occur each year, as it is an incredibly hard number to actually crunch and have accurate. After all, what do you expect when we don’t even know the exact number of people killed by police each year?

What we do know is that a recent study published in the Journal of Forensic Studies found that 36% of officer-involved shootings could be identified as suicide-by-cop situations. The simple fact is that many law enforcement officers do not know how to properly deal with mental health issues, and can’t discern whether or not that person is going to hurt them.

Next: The lack of training should shock you.

Getting our law enforcement mental health training can literally save lives

Police officer Billy Pepitone demonstrates handcuffing techniques to recruits at the New York City Police Academy

Police officer Billy Pepitone demonstrates handcuffing techniques to recruits at the New York City Police Academy. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Not many officers are aware of how to deal with mentally ill people, or have that training. Some police departments do have what are called Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), which are trained in how to interact with people who are suffering from mental illness. Unfortunately, of the 18,000 police departments we have in this country, only 2,700 of them have a CIT, and those CITs only account for a few officers in those respective departments.

Next: When following procedure results in unnecessary deaths 

Outdated police procedures

Recruits practice handcuffing techniques while training at the New York City Police Academy

Recruits practice handcuffing techniques while training at the New York City Police Academy. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Police procedures can also exacerbate an already complex situation. Police training maintains that an officer should immediately establish authority when they arrive on the scene. This, however, is the absolute worst thing you can do when dealing with someone with mental illness.

Training for CITs has officers give suspects more space and time than they’d normally allow. It also has them engage in conversation, rather than shouting commands at the suspect, which creates an easier environment in which to de-escalate the situation.

This is where the death of Scout Schulz comes into focus. On one hand, you have a person suffering from depression, with suicidal thoughts. On the other hand, you had officers who lacked the proper training to be able to recognize the situation and deal with it properly. Knowing that, the path toward avoiding a situation like this in the future is clear. It’s merely a matter of taking the proper action to make it happen.

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