The Killing At Georgia Tech
September 18, 2017
By Rex D. Cain
Still frames from video of Georgia tech shooting of student at the school. Larger images below.
LARGER IMAGES of above. Still frames from video of Georgia tech shooting of student at the school. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Scout Schultz, 21, who was shot and killed by a police officer over the weekend at Georgia Tech University. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Chronicle news, opinion, analysis
(ATLANTA, GA.) -- It is a story that has become as old as Methuselah. It plays out with regularity across America in virtually every state in the union at various times during each year.
The story is so shop-worn and predictable it could be plucked straight out of a B-movie script being shopped around Hollywood for financing.
The script always plays out the same way. The actors all do their same things.
Here's the script: young person (or middle aged or old) in the throes of some mental health crisis or mental thing plus drugs or just drugs. Take your pick.
Police show up on a 911 call. Young man in mental crisis is armed or perceived to be armed. Cops immediately draw guns, take two-handed Weaver stance. At this point in the script it will only be a matter of time before somebody dies.
Police predictably order young man in mental crisis to put down the weapon or perceived weapon. Person does not comply. Sometimes non-compliance is because the person doesn't understand or speak the language or is mentally on a different planet. Sometimes it is both things or both of those things and more things, in which case the Supreme Being himself or herself would probably not be able to comply.
Person in crisis may or may not advance on officers and may or may not be performing the dance commonly known as suicide by cop.
End result is almost always the same. Person in crisis is shot dead, often due to a .40 caliber high-speed 180-grain hollow point of brand name manufacture shot into the young man's center mass from close range.
Very few people survive those hits. Center mass always. Police are not taught to shoot feet, ankles, legs or arms.
The script then says officer goes on paid leave. There will be an inquest (and police internal investigation) into the killing of the young man.
Police officer will say "I told him to drop the weapon, over and over I told him that. I feared for my life and that is why I fired my gun...that and the fact that is what I was trained to do at the police academy."
Police officer will not say he tried to "kill" the young man, just "stop the threat" to his own well-being.
That's a key phrase legally speaking. He wasn't trying to "kill" the young man. They are never trying to kill the person in crisis but person in crisis most often ends up dead anyway in this script.
Intentions do not matter because intentions are very hard to prove in these situations. How do you get into the shooter's head at that moment to understand intention? What matters is the outcome. What matters is what happens.
All of it went according to the well-worn old script. Sound very familiar?
In most instances that will be the end of things with the exception of tearful parents burying their kid and wondering what they did wrong as parents and a lawsuit possibly filed against the officer and the department by family members.
But in terms of the inquest, in the vast majority of these cases - even if they don't pass the sniff test - the shooter, the police officer will walk on a justifiable.
He or she will be found to have justifiably blown the person in crisis into the next universe thanks to their police training and then he or she will go back to their job eventually and get on with their lives, with some exceptions.
Post killing there could be short or long term mental trauma sustained by the officer who fired the fatal bullet. Mental images of such events have a way of searing themselves into the human brain, to no good end.
In a shooting there are sometimes more victims than the person who got shot.
But according to the script, the event itself will almost always be classified as a righteous shooting. Police sometimes refer to such events as a "clean" shooting. That's the system. That's also the script within the system.
There's only one thing wrong with this picture and script.
If this young person had been in a mental crisis in a modern European nation or even in China, and the cops showed up on a 911 call and this young man had stood before those European or Chinese cops doing the very same thing, the overwhelming odds are this young person would be alive today.
And not just alive, but receiving the mental health care he needed when he stood before those officers.
In most modern European nations police, the numbers show, don't kill as many people in a year as some American jurisdictions do in a month.
China, whose population is 4.5 times the size of the United States recorded just 12 killings by law enforcement officers in all of 2014. On average, US police kill people at a rate 70 times higher than any of the other first world countries.
When it comes to dealing with people in crisis, our police appear to still be living in 1888 in Dodge City, Kansas.
But we're ahead of ourselves here. First, the Georgia Tech killing.
The Georgia Tech student who was killed by a police officer over the weekend was eventually identified as 21-year old Scout Schultz, a fourth-year computer engineering student, according to a statement released by Georgia Tech Sunday morning.
According to WSB-TV Atlanta and other local reports, Schultz was a leader in the LGBT pride community on campus and served as the president of the Pride Alliance on Georgia Tech's campus.
Schultz's profile on the Pride Alliance website states, "I'm bisexual, non-binary and intersex," adding "they" and "their" as the appropriate pronouns to address Schultz instead of "he" or "she."
The 911 call
Georgia Tech Police officers responded to a 911 call about a person with a knife and a gun on the downtown Atlanta campus at 11:17 pm Saturday night.
CNN reported that a knife was not visible in the cell phone video seen by CNN but footage shot after the shooting by WSB-TV shows a flip-open utility "multi-tool" tool lying on the ground.
Such tools commonly have a small knife blade as one of the items inside the handles.
The GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) said that when officers arrived, they found Scout Schultz, 21, outside a dormitory with a knife.
By all published accounts and two videos students shared with authorities, Scout Shultz, barefoot and carrying what officers said was a knife kept advancing on the officers and refused multiple commands to "put the knife down."
The officers kept backing up slowly, issuing multiple commands to put the knife down. One student at the school, Aaron Thurston told WSB-TV that Schultz, "He was yelling like, 'Hey, shoot me!'"
And eventually one officer did just that.
The dead man's mom
Lynne Schultz, the dead man's mom told a local newspaper that her oldest child was a brilliant student despite a lot of medical issues including depression. She said he had twice attempted suicide and that most of his stress was school related, that he was a perfectionist.
An attorney, L. Chris Stewart told a local newspaper he thinks Schultz "was having a mental breakdown and didn't know what to do," and that he does not believe the young man was attempting "suicide by police," and that officers should have used nonlethal force because "the area was secured. There was no one around at risk."
The police responding to the call would likely disagree with that statement, saying they were the ones at risk of a man with a knife possibly rushing them and inflicting a fatal wound.
THE 21 FOOT RULE
Unknown to many civilians is the “21-foot rule” in police and military defensive training. The rule is often why a person holding a knife over 20 feet away is considered an immediate, dangerous threat to an officer.
For more than 20 years the “21-Foot Rule” has been a core component in training police officers to defend themselves against edged weapons.
Originating from research by Salt Lake City trainer Dennis Tueller, the rule states that in the time it takes the average officer to recognize a threat, draw his sidearm and fire 2 rounds at center mass, an average (male) subject charging at the officer with a knife or other cutting or stabbing weapon can cover a distance of 21 feet and deliver a fatal or disabling blow.
And the time it takes that average male to cover that 21 feet and deliver a fatal knife wound is one second or less.
The implication, therefore, is that when dealing with an edged-weapon wielder at anything less than 21 feet an officer had better have his gun out and ready to shoot before the offender starts rushing him or else he risks being set upon and severely injured or killed before he can draw his sidearm and effectively defeat the attack.
In addition, there is no guarantee that an officer waiting to fire his service weapon after the subject has started charging at 21 feet will hit the subject or if he does hit the subject, the round or rounds fired will stop him from coming forward and delivering a fatal blow.