ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Tech alerted students to shelter indoors because of violent protests on campus Monday night after police fatally shot a student over the weekend.
The student had called 911 to report an armed and possibly intoxicated suspicious person fitting his physical description.
Campus police killed Scout Schultz, 21, who they said was advancing on officers with a knife. Schultz refused to put down the knife and kept moving toward officers late Saturday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.
“Officers provided multiple verbal commands and attempted to speak with (Schultz) who was not cooperative and would not comply with the officers’ commands,” the agency said in a statement. Schultz “continued to advance on the officers with the knife.”
After a Monday night vigil, the university issued an alert through its emergency system telling people to seek shelter and lock doors and windows because of violent protests. Video posted on social media shows a police vehicle burning in the street and officers pinning people to the ground as onlookers shout at them.
Investigators have determined that Schultz was the one who called Georgia Tech police to report a suspicious person on campus, GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said in an emailed statement Monday.
“In the call, Shultz describes the person as 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,” Miles said, adding that three suicide notes were found in Schultz’s dorm room.
Investigators recovered a multi-purpose tool that included a knife at the scene but didn’t find any guns, Miles said.
Chris Stewart, an attorney for Schultz’s parents said Monday the GBI confirmed to him that the blade on the tool was not out. Flanked by Schultz’s parents earlier Monday, Stewart said the officer who shot Schultz overreacted.
Schultz was having a breakdown and was suicidal but if the officer had used non-lethal force rather than shooting, Schultz could have received treatment and gotten better, Stewart said.
“The mentally ill are looking for a way out when they’re having a full breakdown, and there’s no way you should be able to use a police officer to take your life when that person isn’t threatened,” Stewart said.
Stewart says he plans to sue over the shooting.
Authorities have not identified the officer who shot Schultz nor have they released the audio of the 911 call, which came in around 11:17 p.m. Saturday, according to the GBI.
Georgia Tech on Monday refused to release personnel or disciplinary reports involving the officers, saying such information is exempt from Georgia’s open records law.
Schultz was president of Pride Alliance at Georgia Tech. The fourth-year computer engineering student used the name Scout, rather than the given name Scott, and preferred the pronouns “they” and “them” rather than “he” or “him.”
“I’m bisexual, nonbinary and intersex,” Schultz wrote in a Pride Alliance profile.
William Schultz told reporters Monday that his child had a 3.9 GPA and was on track to graduate early in December.
Lynne Schultz told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the weekend that her oldest child had struggled with depression and attempted suicide two years ago using a belt as a noose.
After that, Scout Schultz went through counseling, William Schultz said. After having worked straight through the two previous summers, Scout Schultz spent this past summer at home and there were no obvious problems when school resumed last month, the elder Schultz said.
Miles said Sunday she did not know whether the officer who fired at Schultz was trained in dealing with suspects who have mental disorders.
The GBI, through its Crisis Intervention Team, has trained about 10,000 local, state and federal law enforcement officers since it began in 2004, the Atlanta newspaper reported. Some agencies require that training while others don’t.
Georgia Tech police don’t carry stun guns, but are equipped with pepper spray, a spokesman told the newspaper.
Stewart, the family’s lawyer, said the university has failed in not providing its officers with stun guns. He also said university police officers “should have the highest training in dealing with people having mental or emotional breakdowns and issues.”
Referring to a video of the incident, Stewart says the main officer was doing a “phenomenal job” handling the situation — retreating, trying to deescalate and putting a barrier between himself and Schultz — and that other officers also appeared to be providing appropriate backup. But one officer behaved inappropriately by firing on Schultz when there was no immediate danger to any of the officers, Stewart said.
William Schultz said he and his wife are depending on Stewart’s investigation to determine what happened, but that he’s sure the encounter shouldn’t have ended in his child’s death.
If given a chance to talk to the officer, he told reporters, he just has one question: “Why did you have to shoot? That’s the question. I mean, that’s the only question that matters right now. Why did you kill my son?”