Lawyer: Georgia Tech police overreacted by killing student

Posted at 4:07 PM, Sep 18, 2017

ATLANTA (AP) -- A Georgia Tech police officer overreacted by firing a gunshot that killed a student during a late-night encounter outside a dorm, a lawyer for the student's parents said.

Campus police killed Scout Schultz, 21, who they say was advancing on officers with a knife. Schultz refused to put down the knife and kept moving toward officers late Saturday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

"Officers provided multiple verbal commands and attempted to speak with (Schultz) who was not cooperative and would not comply with the officers' commands," the agency said in a statement. Schultz "continued to advance on the officers with the knife."

Lawyer Chris Stewart, who's representing Schultz's parents, disputes that account. Schultz was holding a multi-tool gadget, and a photo taken by a WSB-TV team when it arrived on the scene shows that the knife wasn't extended, Stewart said.

"The knife wasn't even open. That's the truth that the world isn't getting," he said, later adding, "What was Scout doing? Standing there disoriented, having a mental breakdown and was shot from 20 feet away."

Stewart says he plans to sue over the shooting.

Authorities have not identified the officer who shot Schultz nor have they released the 911 call that led to the confrontation. Preliminary information indicates that the initial 911 call reported a person with a knife and a gun about 11:17 p.m. Saturday, the GBI said in a statement.

Georgia Tech on Monday refused to release the 911 call, or any personnel or disciplinary reports involving the officers, saying that such information is exempt from Georgia's open records law.

Schultz was president of Pride Alliance at Georgia Tech. The fourth-year computer engineering student used the name Scout, rather than the given name Scott, and preferred the pronouns "they" and "them" rather than "he" or "him."

"I'm bisexual, nonbinary and intersex," Schultz wrote in a Pride Alliance profile.

William Schultz told reporters Monday that his child had a 3.9 GPA and was on track to graduate early in December.

Lynne Schultz told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the weekend that her oldest child had struggled with depression and attempted suicide two years ago using a belt as a noose.

After that, Scout Schultz went through counseling, William Schultz said. After having worked straight through the two previous summers, Scout Schultz spent this past summer at home and there were no obvious problems when school resumed last month, the elder Schultz said.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Nelly Miles said Sunday she did not know whether the officer who fired at Schultz was trained in dealing with suspects who have mental disorders.

The GBI, through its Crisis Intervention Team, has trained about 10,000 local, state and federal law enforcement officers since it began in 2004, the Atlanta newspaper reported. Some agencies require that training while others don't.

Georgia Tech police don't carry stun guns, but are equipped with pepper spray, a spokesman told the newspaper.

In May 2015, the University System of Georgia implemented a system-wide campus safety initiative. Among its recommendations: establish a program to review training needs for campus law enforcement at the state's public colleges and universities. It set a 2016 timeline for establishing the program to identify gaps and develop necessary training programs.

The outcome of those recommendations wasn't immediately known Monday. A university system representative was looking into the matter.

Stewart, the family's lawyer, says the university has failed in not providing its officers with stun guns. He also said university police officers "should have the highest training in dealing with people having mental or emotional breakdowns and issues."

Referring to a video of the incident, Stewart says the main officer was doing a "phenomenal job" handling the situation - retreating, trying to deescalate and putting a barrier between himself and Schultz - and that other officers also appeared to be providing appropriate backup. But one officer behaved inappropriately by firing on Schultz when there was no immediate danger to any of the officers, Stewart said.

William Schultz said he and his wife are depending on Stewart's investigation to determine what happened, but that he's sure the encounter shouldn't have ended in his child's death.

If given a chance to talk to the officer, he told reporters, he just has one question: "Why did you have to shoot? That's the question. I mean, that's the only question that matters right now. Why did you kill my son?"


Associated Press writer Jeff Martin contributed to this report.