No charges will be filed in shooting of 13-year-old Linden Cameron
Aug 11, 2023, 8:30 PM | Updated: Aug 12, 2023, 4:10 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — “Tell my mum I love her.”
This is what 13-year-old Linden Cameron can be heard asking officer Matthew Farillas, who had just shot him, as he lay bleeding on a street around the corner from his home.
The grainy sound of Linden’s plea rang out across the silent media room in the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office.
District Attorney Sim Gill finished his hour-long ‘walk through’ of the investigation into what happened the night of Sept. 4, 2020, that left Linden in critical condition at the hands of a Salt Lake City police officer.
The story made national news when it happened, during a time when police brutality seemed to be on the front page of every newspaper. Linden was unarmed, has autism and was only 13 years old at the time.
“So, as we said, we find the shooting to be unjustified,” Gill told a room full of reporters.
There was a pause, only the tap of laptop keyboards, and the scratch of pens could be heard as Gill continued.
“But given the conflicting opinions there, after justification we have to go to court and prove beyond a reasonable doubt [it was unjust]… and based on that we decline to file the charges.”
Hands around the room shot into the air.
Not enough to prosecute
The investigation into the shooting included two expert analyses.
One was from Natasha Powers, a retired police sergeant from Colorado.
She concluded that “officer Farillas shot at [redacted] 11 times, striking him five times. No other officer in this incident fired their weapon… The force used by officer Farillas was inappropriate.”
Powers also said his actions “were not in concert with established police practices and guidelines,” and pointed out that “officer Farillas NEVER said, ‘Show me your hands, hands in the air,’ or anything that would have commanded [redacted] at a minimum to show his hands.”
The second expert’s analysis came from Eric Diagle, who is an attorney and retired police officer from Connecticut.
His review of the evidence disagreed with Powers, concluding that Farillas was justified when he shot Linden.
“Officer Farillas was faced with a split-second decision in this rapidly evolving, tense and uncertain event,” the report read.
Diagle said the situation “left him [officer Farillas] with no choice but to respond with the use of deadly force.”
Gill told reporters that Farillas was “Objectively wrong about the necessity for him to use deadly force.” However, this doesn’t mean he didn’t think Linden did have a gun and feared for his life.
Concerned over how Linden Cameron incident was handled
Gill openly demonstrated his concern about how the incident was handled by all of the officers involved.
When Linden’s mother Golda Barton called the dispatch, she explained that her son had mental health issues and was frightened by police after his grandfather was shot and killed by officers some time ago.
She explained to dispatch that police are “a trigger… he see’s the badge and automatically thinks you’re going to kill him or he has to defend himself in someway.”
In the 911 call, she also said that Linden may have a weapon.
“I don’t know if it’s a BB gun. I don’t know if it’s a pellet gun,” she said.
When asked if she knew if it was a real firearm Barton responded, “I don’t believe it’s a real gun.”
Dispatch informed her that they “have to kind of treat them as if they are [real]”.
Crisis Intervention Team was requested
Barton asked specifically for a member of the Crisis Intervention Team, an officer with special training in how to handle someone experiencing a mental health crisis. She wanted help getting her son to a hospital.
Gill made numerous comments about his concern in the approach taken to apprehending a teenage boy with known mental health issues.
“This was an avoidable shooting that did not need to escalate to the point where lethal force was used.”
The body cam footage shows officers arriving at the suburban home and approaching the front door, before spotting Linden in the back yard attempting to run away.
The footage shows officers yelling at him to stop before chasing him over a fence. After a short foot pursuit, Linden stopped running on a street not far from his home.
Officer Farillas yelled for him to get on the ground. Linden’s hands appear to move toward the waistband of his black and white track pants as he begins to turn his back and retreat, creating distance between the two.
Eleven shots ring out. Linden drops to the ground. No weapon was found on him. He’s heard begging officer Farillas to tell his mother he loves her. It happens 1 minute and 46 seconds after officers first approached his home.
Settlement reached with family of Linden Cameron
In September 2022, Linden’s family reached a $3 million settlement with Salt Lake City over the shooting. Linden survived but has lasting injuries both mental and physical.
The Salt Lake City Police Department told KSL in a statement that there is still an ongoing internal review. However, they did say since this tragic incident, the department has invested in and has provided more resources for officers when they respond to people who are living with a mental health illness or are in crisis.
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