SALT LAKE CITY — The family of a 13-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome who was shot multiple times by a Salt Lake police officer has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the police department.

“We have debated whether a lawsuit is the right thing to do and if so, the appropriate timing. As we have reflected on the shooting, and as we have watched news reports that have surfaced, we feel that a civil lawsuit is the only way to effect meaningful change and to bring public awareness to a glaring problem in our state and nation,” the family of Linden Cameron and their attorneys said in a prepared statement.

“Contrary to some of the public statements from Mayor Erin Mendenhall and (Police Chief Mike) Brown, it is clear that SLCPD has a long ways to go in becoming the most professional, well-trained and progressive police department that they profess to be.

“This tragic shooting should not have happened.”

The shooting of Linden garnered national attention and widespread criticism and left the teen’s mother, Golda Barton, wondering why the officer believed using deadly force was his best option.

On Sept. 4, police were called to the area of 500 South and Navajo Street (1335 West), on a report of a juvenile having a “violent psychological issue.” Barton told police her son, Linden, who has autism, was having ‘separation anxiety” that day resulting in a mental health breakdown.

“I need him to go to hospital,” a fatigued Barton tells the officers in recorded body camera video.

Three officers responded to the scene. Prior to approaching the house, officers were recorded on their body cameras talking about how to deal with the situation.

“If it’s a psych problem and (the mom) is out of the house, I don’t see why we should even approach, in my opinion. ... I’m not about to get in a shooting because (the boy) is upset, sorry,” a female officer is heard saying.

“Especially when he hates cops, it’s going to end in a shooting,” another officer replied.

According to the civil lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, the second officer is the one who ended up shooting Linden 11 times,

That officer’s name has not been released. Court documents identify him as officer Farias, with an unknown first name.

While officers were at Linden’s front door, he ran out the back and scaled a wooden fence. Farias broke through the fence and chased after him, the lawsuit states.

“Less than 30 seconds after breaking the fence, officer Farias was within 15-20 feet of (Linden), who was no longer running. Officer Farias was shining a light on (Linden) and it was evident that (he) did not possess any weapon in his hands,” according to the lawsuit.

Linden Cameron is recovering in the hospital after family members say he was shot multiple times while running from officers on Sept. 4, 2020. His mother had called police for help with a mental health crisis that Cameron, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was experiencing.
Linden Cameron was shot multiple times while running from officers on Sept. 4, 2020. His mother had called police for help with a mental health crisis that Cameron, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was experiencing. | Wesley Barton

Barton told police that she did not believe her son was armed but wasn’t 100% sure, and Linden appears in body camera video to say “I have a gun” as he’s being chased, but no weapon was found after he was shot.

Linden was shot 11 times. According to his lawyer, Nathan Morris, Linden’s left arm is now paralyzed and doctors are unsure if he will ever regain use of it. He also suffered internal organ damage, had to have surgery on his ankle, and suffered “permanent disfigurement.” Some of the bullets are still inside his body, Morris said.

In addition to the physical injuries, Morris said Linden, who was already struggling with mental health issues, has also suffered additional mental and emotional injuries.

“It has not made life easier for that family,” he said.

The lawsuit, Morris said, is not about money. Although there is a financial component that comes with the suit, Morris contends it’s the only way to get the city to make changes.

“At nearly every step, the responding police officers acted contrary to acceptable policing practices. Chasing down a young child and shooting him 11 times from behind is certainly the most glaring of the wrongdoings. However, multiple other failures in protocol and procedure increased the probability of unnecessary violence,” according to the family’s statement.

Morris, who also represented the family of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, said Mendenhall announced on Aug. 3 that there would be changes made to the police department’s use-of-force policy.

“If implemented and followed, the Aug. 3, 2020, changes ordered by Mayor Mendenhall would likely have prevented the shooting of (Linden),” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit states that Farias did not attempt to use his Taser or any other instrument before unholstering his gun, did not use any de-escalation tactics, and did not follow the department policy of firing twice and then reassessing the situation before shooting again.

Protesters rally outside the Ogden Municipal Building in Ogden on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. People gathered to protest and call attention to the shooting of Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome who was shot by police in Salt Lake City. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

“Once he began firing his gun at (Linden), officer Farias did not intend to bring (Linden) into custody alive,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also contends that Salt Lake police officers are not properly trained on how to deal with mentally ill people.

For all these reasons, Morris said the family decided to file a lawsuit in an effort to make sure that an incident like this doesn't happen again.

“This felt like this was too important of an issue to let it just sit and pass by,” he said. “The family is very interested in making sure there is genuine reform.”

Although the mayor and police chief have promised changes will be made to the department, Morris said with the shooting coming on the heels of promises made following the Palacios shooting, “You can understand if we’re skeptical,” noting that the lawsuit was filed to add pressure for real changes to be made.

Salt Lake police released a brief statement Tuesday regarding the lawsuit.

“The Salt Lake City Police Department has not been served with a lawsuit regarding the officer-involved critical incident on Sept. 4, 2020, however with pending litigation and an open investigation we can provide no further comment at this time.”

The shooting remained under review Tuesday by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether it was legally justified.

Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall enter a press conference at the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, where they discussed the shooting of 13-year-old Linden Cameron following the release body camera footage and 911 recordings of the shooting. | Steve Griffin, Deseret News