“I don’t feel good. Tell my mom I love her.”
These were the words of 13-year-old Linden Cameron after he was shot 11 times by Salt Lake City police earlier this month, newly released bodycam footage shows.
A total of five officer bodycam videos, plus audio of the 911 call from the boy’s mother, were uploaded to YouTube by the Salt Lake City Police Department on Monday evening. Together, the uploads provide a more complete timeline of what happened the night of Sept. 4 when police were led on a brief chase through Linden’s neighborhood, and one eventually fired at the troubled teen.
Most of the videos begin with his mom, Golda Barton, explaining to officers that her son suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. She says he has had a strong dislike for police officers since local cops shot and killed his grandfather earlier this year. She also explains that it's possible her son is carrying a prop weapon but likely doesn’t pose a threat to anyone.
“I don’t believe it’s a real gun,” she tells the officer.
“Unfortunately we have to kind of treat them all as if they are,” the officer replies.
She tells them he’s having a “mental breakdown” and has been lashing out at her for a number of days for being at work and away from home for long stretches of time. She called the officers to de-escalate the situation, subdue her son, and take him to the local hospital.
As the one officer speaks to Barton, another officer on the scene is heard in her bodycam video asking a colleague whether they should even be responding to this kind of situation.
“This is a psych problem. I don’t see why we even have to approach,” she says to another officer after he explains Linden’s aversion to cops. “Honestly, we can call sergeant and tell him the situation, because I’m not about to get into a shooting because he’s upset.”
“This is exactly what we talked about last week,” she continues. “If no one’s in the house and no one is in danger, maybe he’s probably breaking stuff but he’s not harming himself. Sorry, I’m not about to get into a shooting.”
Moments later, officers walk over to Barton’s home and knock on the door, prompting Cameron to flee through the backyard. Officers trail him, breaking through a wooden fence as they chase him, and order the teen to get on the ground. Almost immediately after the order, one of the officers then fires 11 shots at the teen and he collapses to the ground. Linden can be heard crying out in pain as officers approach and place handcuffs on him.
“I don’t feel good. Tell my mom I love her,” Linden says before rolling over. The video ends there. Police say they began rendering medical aid shortly after handcuffing him.
Cameron was taken to the hospital that night in critical condition with bullet wounds to both ankles, shoulder, intestines, and bladder.
He’s still in the hospital and is currently restricted to a wheelchair. He has trouble speaking, has lost feeling in one of his arms, and is unlikely to ever walk normally again, Cameron’s brother Wesley Barton told The Salt Lake Tribune.
“It’s horrible,” Barton told the Tribune. “To see your little brother bleeding out, saying his last words. It plays in my head over and over.”
The shooting is currently being investigated by the Salt Lake police department, county DA Sim Gill, and an outside policy agency. SLCPD Chief Mike Brown said the incident will be a learning moment for the department.
“We are facing a mental health crisis in this country,” Brown said during a press conference Monday. “We want to be partners with those who provide mental health services. As a community, we need to find a way forward. Too often, our officers are called to deal with these difficult problems, which frequently are not criminal in nature.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall promised a swift investigation of the shooting. She said that moving forward, all police shootings in the city caught on camera will be uploaded to YouTube within 10 days of the incident.
Cover: Screen shot from bodycam footage posted by the SLCPD shows Golda Barton talking to police the night of Sept 4, 2020.