Late Saturday night, Georgia Tech police fatally shot Scout Schultz, a student at the school. The 21-year-old, originally from Lilburn, Georgia, didn't comply with orders to drop a pocket knife, although images from the scene appear to suggest that the blade did not seem to be retracted and there was no one in immediate danger when the officer opened fire. Schultz, president of their school's Pride Alliance, was active in protests on campus, and their parents first assumed Schultz was shot at one.
Instead, the details surrounding Schultz's death are far from clear. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation point to a 911 call reporting "a person with a knife and a gun." Georgia Tech police responded to the scene and found Schultz armed with a knife. Video shot from across the street shows that officers first kept backing up from Schultz, saying things like, "Come on man, let’s drop the knife." Schultz then yelled, "Shoot me!" and began to advance towards one of the officers who continues to retreat.
After a minute of back and forth, a different officer yells something from another direction. Schultz turns and moves toward that officer. The officer yells, "Do not move. What is your name?" The student takes three steps toward the officer asking the questions, and then is shot. Schultz starts to scream but what happens next is obstructed from view by a tree. The senior in computer engineering died later at the hospital from the gunshot wound, which hit their heart.
Schultz's mom, talking to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wondered why non-lethal responses couldn't be used. "Why didn’t they use some nonlethal force, like pepper spray or Tasers?" Lynne Schultz said. The family's lawyer also pointed to this being a police overreaction. "The area was secured. There was no one around at risk," attorney Chris Stewart said, adding he thought Schultz was "having a mental breakdown and didn’t know what to do."
Among those hardest hit from the loss at Georgia Tech will likely be the members of Pride Alliance, the LGBTQ group on campus. Schultz was a member and identified as bisexual, non-binary, and intersex, preferring the pronouns they, them, and their. The group's Facebook is full of programming that Schultz had a major hand in planning, according to the statement released by the group following their death:
As you might have heard, last night we lost our President, Scout Schultz. We are all deeply saddened by what has occurred. They have been the driving force behind Pride Alliance for the past two years. They pushed us to do more events and a larger variety events, and we would not be the organization we are known as without their constant hard work and dedication. Their leadership allowed us to create change across campus and in the Atlanta community. Scout always reminded us to think critically about the intersection of identities and how a multitude of factors play into one's experience on Tech's campus and beyond. We love you Scout and we will continue to push for change.
In addition to LGBTQ activism, Schultz's death is likely to be difficult for those on campus suffering from depression, something they too faced. Schultz attempted suicide two years ago.
Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students John Stein acknowledged that Schultz's death was devastating, noting that "for members of the community who knew Scout personally, the shock and grief are particularly acute." The campus shared mental health resources for students.
The university's president, G.P. "Bud" Peterson, also released a statement, mourning "Scout's life and the unrealized potential of what could have been." But he also noted that Georgia Tech is "committed to providing a healthy, living and learning environment." He didn't address that it was the Georgia Tech university police who fired the fatal shot.
Schultz was majoring in computer engineering with a minor in biomedical engineering. They planned to get a masters and eventually build medical devices. On top of their work with Pride Alliance, Schultz enjoyed playing Dungeons & Dragons and tried "to be politically active."
Pride Alliance has planned a vigil for 8 p.m. on Monday at the Georgia Tech Campanile to "share memories of their beautiful life."