Law enforcement experts say the recent shooting death of a Georgia Tech student illustrates a problem called “suicide by cop.” It’s when a suspect initiates a threat with the sole purpose of forcing an officer to kill them.
Vince Champion, the Southeast Director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, watched the video of a Georgia Tech police officer fatally shooting 21-year-old Scout Schultz, as he held a knife yelling, “Shoot me!”
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Champion firmly believes the officer had no choice but to shoot Schultz because he refused he stopped moving toward officers.
“When you’re coming at you with a deadly weapon, the officer is going to take whatever needs to stop the threat and that’s what officers are trained,” Champion told 11Alive’s Andy Pierrotti via Skype. “We are not trained to kill. We are trained to stop the threat and if the threat is approaching to us, and they only way for us stop them is to fire our weapon…that’s what the officer did.”
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If Scout would have at least listened and stayed put, Champion said that could have allowed the officers on the scene to request an officer with more extensive mental health training.
“Somebody is in that mindset, that that’s what they’re going to do, they no longer want to live. It’s been my experience, you can’t stop them,” Champion said.
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Identifying how often “suicide by cop” incidents happen is difficult to track. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI do not track these deaths.
The only comprehensive study done on similar incidents was conducted in 2009 and only focused on the LA County Sheriff’s Department. At the time, it found 11 percent of officer-involved shootings were suicide by cop incidents. Ninety-eight percent of the suspects were male.
Georgia Tech police officers do not carry Tasers and Champion thinks that’s a mistake. He’s also a Taser instructor. Had officers had a Tasers, Champion believes there could have been a different outcome the night Scout died.
Schultz’ family said they plan to file a civil lawsuit in connection with the case soon.
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