ATLANTA (AP) — The parents of a Georgia Tech student killed by a campus police officer two years ago have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school, the university system and the officer.
Authorities have said university police officer Tyler Beck fatally shot 21-year-old Scott “Scout” Schultz on Sept. 16, 2017. Investigators have said officers responded after Schultz called 911 to report an armed suspicious person matching Schultz’s own description.
The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by William and Lynne Schultz names Georgia Tech, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and Beck as defendants. It requests a jury trial and seeks damages and attorneys’ fees.
A university spokeswoman said in an email that the school doesn’t comment on pending litigation. A spokeswoman for the Board of Regents also declined to comment.
The suit says Beck used excessive force and wasn’t adequately trained to respond to situations involving people experiencing mental health crises. If he’d had proper training, Scout Schultz would be alive, attorney L. Chris Stewart said at a news conference Thursday.
“It was preventable. It should never have happened. And it was a tragedy,” Stewart added.
Police said at the time of the shooting that Schultz had a knife and refused to drop it after repeated commands. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said a multi-purpose tool that included a knife was found at the scene, and three suicide notes were discovered in Schultz’s dorm room.
The lawsuit says Schultz’s actions “were consistent with a person who is experiencing a mental health crisis and were actions which a reasonably trained law enforcement officer would recognize as such.”
One or more of the responding officers had received specialized training in crisis intervention techniques, and several of the officers stayed calm and took steps to deescalate the situation, the lawsuit says. But Beck instead used physical force, the lawsuit says.
“Immediately after Schultz was told not to move by one of his fellow officers, Beck shot Schultz — firing his weapon one time,” the lawsuit says.
Beck had been an officer for about 16 months at the time of the shooting, and training records do not indicate that he had training in crisis intervention techniques. Less than one-third of Georgia Tech’s police officers had undergone the 40-hour course, according to records released by the school at that time.
Beck was placed on leave after the shooting. University spokeswoman Denise Ward said Beck returned to active duty in April 2018 and is currently a member of the administrative team.
Schultz was an engineering student and the president of the Pride Alliance at Georgia Tech. Schultz identified as nonbinary and intersex and preferred the pronouns “they” and “them” rather than “he” and “him.”
William Schultz said Thursday that his child was a great student with a 3.9 GPA and was on track to graduate early in December 2017. Georgia Tech had submitted a patent application on Scout Schultz’s behalf, he said.
“This is just the beginning of the good things that could have come if Scout had lived,” William Schultz told reporters, marveling at his child’s intellect and talent.
Georgia Tech made changes after the shooting, including expanding the LGBTQIA Resource Center, pouring more money into mental health wellness on campus, changing policy and training for officers and equipping every officer with a stun gun, Stewart said.
“We salute Georgia Tech for the changes that they made after this,” Stewart said Thursday. “But it was too late. It shouldn’t have taken a death for Georgia Tech to make these changes.”
Some people have pointed out that Scout Schultz urged officers to shoot, seeming to want to die, Stewart noted. But that doesn’t matter, he said, because officers should be trained to such a high degree and standard that they shouldn’t heed that call.
William Schultz has previously said Scout Schultz had gone through counseling after attempting suicide two years before the shooting, but there was no indication anything was wrong when he dropped Scout off at school the month before the shooting.
The GBI investigated the shooting and turned over its files to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to determine whether any prosecution is warranted. A spokesman for Howard said Thursday that his office’s investigation is ongoing.