In a historic settlement, Salt Lake City has agreed pay $3 million to the parents of an unarmed autistic child shot by a Salt Lake City police officer in 2020, the parents announced Tuesday.
The parents filed their excessive force complaint against Salt Lake City police in November 2020, two months after the boy was shot. Andrew Wittenberg, a spokesperson with the Salt Lake City mayor’s office, confirmed late Tuesday that the settlement marked the largest such amount the city has ever agreed to pay.
“While the settlement is not an admission of liability, the parties agree that [Linden Cameron]’s shooting was a tragedy,” Wittenberg said in a written statement. “The settlement represents combined efforts to reach a compromise that resolves this case outside of formal litigation and provides [Linden] with resources for long-term, lifetime care.”
The resolution comes just more than two years after Golda Barton called police the night of Sept. 4, 2020, asking for help for her son Linden, who was 13 at the time and in crisis.
When officers arrived to her home, she told them her son was afraid of police officers and that she feared he would run away. Linden’s grandfather had been shot and killed by police in Nevada earlier that year.
As police approached the house, audio captured by body cameras indicates that officers questioned why they were responding. One officer asked why they should be doing an “approach” into Linden’s home for a “psych problem.”
“We could call sergeant,” she said, “and tell him the situation. Because I’m not about to get in a shooting because he’s upset.”
“Yeah,” replied officer Matthew Farillas, who later shot Linden, “especially when he hates cops, it’s going to end in a shooting.”
As officers responded, Linden did run away. Body camera footage shows that police chased Linden on a dark street and opened fire on him when he didn’t listen to their repeated commands to, “Get on the ground!”
Farillas fired 11 shots, the lawsuit stated. Linden survived but was severely injured.
The child’s family called the settlement a “crucial step towards increasing awareness for those with mental health challenges,” according to a statement provided by their attorneys.
“SLC and SLCPD continue to deny liability for the shooting. ... However, their actions following the shooting demonstrate that they understood the wrong that had occurred despite legal arguments that could be advanced,” according to the statement.
A month after police shot Linden, Salt Lake City police announced a partnership with KultureCity, an organization that trains first responders to handle interactions with people with sensory needs, like Linden.
People with PTSD, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions may also have trouble responding to sensory input, according to KultureCity.
The city provided this training to all first responders and continues to do so, Wittenberg said in the statement Tuesday.
In their statement, Linden’s family called on other departments to make sensory-inclusive training mandatory.
A Salt Lake Tribune analysis of police shootings in Utah between 2010 and 2020 showed more than 40% of cases involve someone in a mental health crisis — and experts said the true figure is likely higher.
Salt Lake County prosecutors have not yet announced their findings in the criminal investigation into the shooting. Linden’s family in their statement said that determination is “long overdue.”