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Monday, June 24, 2024

On Saturday night, the president of Georgia Institute of Technology’s LGBTQ+ student organization, the Pride Alliance, stood in a parking lot holding a knife. Scout Schultz stood there — in full view of a student dormitory — and told Georgia Tech Police to shoot.

This incident didn’t end with Schultz getting the help they needed. They weren’t subdued and taken to a psychiatrist. Instead, the  21-year-old engineering student was shot and killed by campus police officers.

We’re mentioning this, dear readers, because stories like this are too common in the U.S.

According to CNN, a video of the incident showed officers telling Schultz multiple times to drop the knife. Footage taken by a CNN affiliate station after the shooting showed a tool that would “likely include a small blade” lying on the ground next to Schultz. A video showed Schultz walking slowly, with their arms straight down, toward two officers with guns drawn.

Schultz shouted, “Shoot me!”

They were shot once and died later at a hospital.

The fact of the matter is that Schultz was suicidal. They were carrying a small weapon and, according to the CNN article, were not threatening anyone. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting, but that won’t bring back Schultz’s life.

Something else to consider: The police told Schultz to stop multiple times, but if Schultz were a person of color, would the police give that many warnings? It seems like police officers are trained to take out threats by any means necessary — preferring guns over Tasers and lethal force over de-escalation.

Georgia Tech’s Pride Alliance website said Schultz, who used they/them pronouns, identified as nonbinary and intersex. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, “LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition.”

We suppose this event struck a nerve with us at the Alligator because it’s reminiscent of the shooting of 16-year-old Robert Dentmond in March 2016 by Gainesville Police officers. Like Schultz, Dentmond appeared to want the police to kill him. He called 911 and said he was going to kill himself with an assault rifle. When the police came, Dentmond ignored commands and was shot and killed.

Dentmond was carrying an assault-rifle-style BB gun.

Police need better training on how to deal with mental health crises. Officers have to make split-second decisions for their own safety, however they should be trained to subdue suicidal 16-year-olds and 21-year-olds without lethal force.

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To any Gators out there who are struggling, please reach out for help. It may seem scary or frustrating, especially as the Counseling & Wellness Center has notoriously long wait times for appointments (which needs a whole other editorial to address), but it’s worth it. There are therapists in Gainesville who can help. The Dean of Students Office has the U Matter, We Care program, where you can tell someone that you or a friend may be in trouble. You don’t have to suffer alone.

By sharing with others and talking openly about things like depression and anxiety, we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. As people talk more about it, we can avoid tragedies like the deaths of Scout Schultz and Robert Dentmond, who could have recovered to live full and happy lives.

If you or a friend need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the UF Counseling & Wellness Center, located at 3190 Radio Road, at 352-392-1575.

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