Police Must Accept Risk, Show Restraint

“Why did you have to shoot?”

Those are the painful words uttered by Bill Schultz in response to the fatal shooting of his child, Scout Schultz, a fourth-year engineering student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who was killed by a Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) officer on Saturday night. This question posed by Scout’s father is the same one that lingers after every unnecessary police shooting.

Four armed officers surrounding one suspect should be able to de-escalate a tough situation without resorting to deadly violence. Schultz was shot after repeated commands by police to drop their multipurpose tool, whose blade was reportedly not extended. In videos of the incident, Schultz is seen slowly walking toward three police officers while one flanked them from behind. There was no attempt at using non-lethal weapons by any of the officers on the scene. The response to Schultz’s plea — “Shoot me!” — was the shot that lead to Schultz’s death.

Police should aim to protect the public at all costs. In too many instances, the suspect’s life is not viewed as worth protecting.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Schultz called 911 before being shot by campus police. In the call, Schultz described, “a white male, with long blonde hair, white T-shirt and blue jeans who is possibly intoxicated, holding a knife and possibly armed with a gun on his hip.”

Furthermore, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports that that three suicide notes were found in Schultz’s dorm room after their death. Schultz’s mother told the AJC that Schultz had been diagnosed with depression in childhood, and that the state of their mental health fluctuated throughout their life.

The police officer who shot Schultz, Tyler Beck, was never trained in Crisis Intervention Training, which teaches police how to handle individuals diagnosed with a mental illness, according to the AJC. An officer with appropriate training should have been dispatched to help avoid the entire crisis.

Emory students frequent Georgia Tech’s campus on the weekends, and it’s likely that some Emory students were at Georgia Tech on Saturday night. In a phone call with the Emory Police Department (EPD), an officer told the Wheel that EPD would respond to a 911 call in the same manner as Schultz — with armed officers. It is clear that this is not unusual protocol.

Our society’s blind trust in police procedures needs to be re-evaluated. The use of lethal force is less common outside the United States but within our borders, 706 people have been shot and killed by police in 2017. Going forward, we must scrutinize and assess the failed policies that led to Schultz’s death.

As Schultz’s family grieves and Georgia Tech’s campus reels, our community should mourn in solidarity. Jumping to premature conclusions in an ongoing investigation is never helpful, but the words of Bill Schultz ring true once again: “[Whatever] happened should not have ended in death.”

The Editorial Board is composed of Jennifer Katz, Madeline Lutwyche and Boris Niyonzima.

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