Georgia authorities continue to investigate the death of Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz, a 21-year-old senior and LGBTQ activist studying engineering who, on the evening of Sept. 16, had his life cut short on the wrong side of a confrontation with campus police officer Tyler Beck. What manifested after the tragedy is everything one would expect in 2017; mourning, public outrage and a brand new hashtag on Twitter’s homepage. Of course, this hardly changes anything, despite it rendering practically as a “rinse and repeat” method of dealing with these issues.
Schultz approached an officer while holding what was, at the time, an unidentified object. Believing it to be a knife, Beck drew his weapon and ordered him to stay still. Schultz took a few more steps, mouthed some allegedly suicidal rhetoric, and before long - BAM, a gunshot. It was a single shot to the heart, killing Schultz instantly. “He died later at an Atlanta hospital,” the Washington Post said. Did I mention that this whole scene was caught on camera?
Upon watching the clip, I counted several problems. First, when a person in a position of obvious power tells you to do something, it never hurts to follow along. I don’t care how much of a rebel someone dares to identify as. A gun is a gun. I will swallow my own pride before I challenge a man who has the power to make my flesh swallow a bullet. That isn’t a Super Soaker an officer has in his hand, it’s a loaded firearm of which he has permission to use. Some may call my preferred course of action “spineless,” others “cowardly.” I will stick with “practical.”
I have learned to always respect authority, even during a shady incident. Being patient and following instructions for a short, unpleasant interval of time is a small price to pay to keep breathing. Unfortunately, even this is questionable in regards to the Schultz shooting.
According to the New York Post, an insightful piece of audio was released in which the caller who reported Schultz’s suspicious activities told police he was “skulking around outside,” and how it “looked like he has a knife in his hand.” I must ask, in the event that another person were to encounter Schultz at the same time of night, would suspicions be any different?
Then there is concern over the extent of force used by Beck, raising even more legitimate questions, and rightfully so. Schultz was “barefoot, disoriented, and having a mental breakdown that night,” his family’s lawyer said. Was it too much to ask to just aim for his leg to immobilize him? Both parties may have appreciated more experience as to how to deal with a mentally incompetent suspect, but it is rather late for wishful thinking. Everyone makes their judgments.
At a certain point, an individual must stop and adopt a little pragmatic thought. Staring down and approaching someone with a sharp object is not that. Neither is shooting someone prematurely. The need for all of us to act accordingly is crucial now more than ever. Schultz is not a martyr for police brutality against LGBTQ folk, he is another victim of mental health that our country tragically let down.