Confrontation at Georgia Tech ended 1 life, changed another forever

Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz (shown at left) and Georgia Tech Campus Police Officer Tyler Beck.

Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz (shown at left) and Georgia Tech Campus Police Officer Tyler Beck.

One was just making his way in the world, 23 years old, fresh out of college. The other, two years younger, was only a few months shy of graduating and was already taking courses for a post-graduate degree.

Both were raised in Gwinnett County and chose careers aimed at helping others — one in law enforcement, the other designing biomedical devices.

On Saturday night their paths intersected on the Georgia Tech campus. And in a split second, everything changed.

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The GBI on Tuesday released the name of the officer who fired the single gunshot that killed 21-year-old Scout Schultz. That officer, Tyler Beck, of Dacula, had joined the Tech police department in the spring of 2016. He had yet to undergo crisis intervention training designed to assist officers in dealing with mentally ill suspects.

Newly released 911 audio, meanwhile, shed fresh insight into the apparent “suicide by cop” orchestrated by Schultz, whose death has reignited the debate locally over police use of force.

Violent protesters — “outside agitators,” according to Tech’s president — roiled the campus on Monday night, torching a police car and injuring two officers, following a peaceful vigil in remembrance of the Lilburn native who led the university’s Pride Alliance.

(Schultz identified as nonbinary, neither male nor female, and was born intersex, meaning a person has biological or physiological characteristics that aren’t necessarily male or female. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is following Associated Press guidelines for media coverage in using the pronoun “they” for Scout.)

“It looks like there’s somebody skulking around outside,” said Schultz on the 911 call, calmly describing the individual as a white male with long blonde hair dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans. “It looks like he’s got a knife in his hand. I think he might have a gun on his hip.”

Beck was one of four officers dispatched to a parking deck on the west side of campus, where Schultz was waiting, dressed as described and holding a utility tool that included a small blade. It was not extended. And there was no gun.

In a video capturing the confrontation Schultz can be heard telling the officers, “Shoot me!” while ignoring officers’ commands to drop the pocket knife and stand in place. As Schultz continued to progress, slowly, towards the officers, Beck, located roughly 20 feet away, fired his gun, striking Schultz in the chest. He was the only officer to discharge his weapon.

Schultz left behind three suicide notes, according to the GBI. Schultz’s mother told the AJC they had attempted suicide two years ago and had battled depression for most of their life.

The Schultzes say they will file a wrongful death suit against the university.

On Tuesday, the family’s attorney, Chris Stewart, said Georgia Tech failed Beck, providing him with neither the proper training or the non-lethal force that could’ve prevented Schultz’s death. School officials confirmed Tech’s police force are not equipped with Tasers.

According to the spokesman with the Georgia University System, most of its campus officers are trained to deal with mentally ill or impaired suspects through the GBI’s Crisis Intervention Training.

The other three officers involved in confrontation at Tech have not yet been publicly identified and it was unclear if they’d received crisis intervention training. But their restrained conduct Saturday night — captured on video — has drawn accolades, even from Stewart.

CIT training is not mandated by the state.

Officers are selected by their agency to attend and when the program first started, in 2004, most who enrolled were veteran officers, said Debbie Shaw, program administrator for the Crisis Intervention Team. Nearly 11,000 officers statewide have received CIT training, she said.

“We get a mixture. Some classes may have majority new officers right out of the academy, with other classes majority veterans with ten or more years,” Shaw said. “As to the preference, that is also dependent on the agency. CIT is an advanced training course, and experience lends itself to relating the training to the job.”

According to Georgia’s Peace Officer and Standards Training Council (POST), Beck had completed five hours of use of force training, focusing on de-escalation options. He had completed eight hours in crisis management training unrelated to CIT.

Overall, POST records show Beck completed 556 hours of training over the last two years.

Friends embrace on Monday, September 18, 2017, during a vigil in memory of Scout Schultz, a student and leader in the LGBTQIA community at Georgia Tech. The vigil was held at the Kessler Campanile at Georgia Tech in Atlanta after Scout Schultz was killed during an encounter with campus police. Pride Alliance and Progressive Student Alliance hosted the vigil. (Rebecca Breyer for The AtlantaJournal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Breyer

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Credit: Rebecca Breyer

A March 2016 post on Tech police’s Instagram account said Beck was about to start about 11 weeks of training in the police academy. The previous summer, Beck enrolled in the department’s Public Safety Officer program, which pairs aspiring cops with a veteran officer from the Community Outreach and Engagement Unit (CORE). There, according to the post, Beck gained experience “interacting with the public and learning the fundamentals of community policing.”

Beck graduated from Georgia College in Milledgeville, where he made the Dean’s List in the spring of 2016. Attempts to contact Beck were unsuccessful. His number is unlisted and a request for comment via email was not answered.

“For the officer, it’ll probably never be the same,” said Lance LoRusso, a former officer who now serves as the lawyer for the state’s police union. “No officer wants to take a life when they go to work.”