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Friend of slain Georgia Tech student: 'If Scout was more gender-conforming, would it have been different?'

Beth Greenfield
Senior Writer
Yahoo Beauty
Scout Schultz, left, was shot and killed by a Georgia Tech police officer on Saturday. Now Kirby Jackson, the student’s friend, is speaking out. (Photos: Remembering Scout Schultz via Facebook, Kirby Jackson via Facebook)

Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz, 21, was shot and killed on Saturday by campus police. It was the tragic ending to a situation that reportedly began when Schultz called 911 to report that a suspicious individual — who turned out to be Schultz — was lurking around with a knife. The fourth-year student — who identified as transgender, preferred to be called by the pronouns “they” and “them,” was intersex (referring to a variety of conditions in which a person is born with sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male), and served as the president of the campus Pride Alliance — had apparently attempted suicide in the past and saw this as a new route to ending their life. Several suicide notes were found in the student’s dorm room. But Schultz’s parents have pleaded for answers as to why the shot was ever fired, and a campus vigil held in the student’s honor on Monday turned chaotic, when angry students protested the shooting and several were arrested. In an attempt to learn more about what went wrong in the death of Schultz, Yahoo Lifestyle spoke with Kirby Jackson, 23, of Decatur — a Georgia Tech psychology major, currently on a break from school for personal issues, who was Schultz’s friend. This is her story, as told to Beth Greenfield.

I saw Scout just the week before [the shooting] and everything seemed fine. We played board games, we hung out, we laughed, and everything seemed okay.

There are only so many queer people on campus and we made friends, mostly through mutual friends and similar interests — Dungeons & Dragons, and gaming, activism, political beliefs. We’re both trans, and we’re both pansexual [attracted to all sexes and genders]. So we connected in those ways.

Scout was incredibly ardent and well educated and knew that things could be and should be a certain way, which was really great for talking activism. Scout was always pushing us to be better and to be the best we could be, just in everything. Scout listened too — sometimes argued, but you know how some people argue but they don’t really listen? Scout could listen while still comprehending and understanding, or trying to, at least.

I know Scout had attempted suicide in the past. I’ve attempted in the past as well, so we’d sometimes talk a little about it, but we never had a real heart-to-heart. We were friends — we were more than acquaintances — but not best-best friends.

From having talked a lot with a closer friend, I know Scout had apparently talked about how, if ever attempting suicide again, suicide-by-cop might be easier. So apparently Scout was the one that called police saying there was a threatening person on campus.

Before they did that, they dropped off some stuff for their closest friend — a box of Magic cards — and then went out and had a multitool in their hand. It wasn’t extended, and it was a really shitty multitool too. At a party once I asked to borrow it for the bottle opener and they lent it to me and I had to give it back because I almost broke it and couldn’t open the bottle. But it was metallic and flashy and they had it in their hands and were yelling, “Shoot me,” all the stuff you’ve seen online.

I shouldn’t have watched [the video] but I did. If I were to make a bracket of people getting into one-on-one fights, Scout wouldn’t be a very high seed. How were you threatened by Scout enough to have to kill them?

It’s come out that the cop that pulled the trigger hadn’t undergone any sort of crisis [training], and that has been my biggest thing. Watching the video, they just yell at Scout multiple times, “Put down the weapon! Put down the weapon!” There wasn’t any attempt of like, “Hey listen, we know you’re going through something, we can help you,” none of that. People don’t generally like to be angrily yelled at, people tend to feel threatened when angrily yelled at. It wasn’t helpful for sure.

And then also there were many more armed cops than there were Scouts, and even if Scout couldn’t be talked down, I’m incredibly surprised that the cops couldn’t have wrestled Scout to the ground, or found some nonlethal way of ending that situation. We just found out the officer’s name [on Tuesday], and we still don’t know if they’re suspended or if they’re still working.

The mental health services offered on campus right now just don’t have enough depth. You can only get 16 sessions with the counseling center, and then you have to wait a full calendar year before starting more — which can be fine for stuff that’s very temporal, but not for more ongoing issues. Plus there are not enough counselors. It always books up. So if you have an invisible illness — depression or anxiety or panic disorder or anything that might interfere with your ability to deal with class — it can be difficult to get the accommodations necessary.

This came up on Monday night after the vigil. The vigil was very nice — it was a candlelight thing, a very moving, symbolic gesture. It was something Scout would’ve hated, as Scout was much more the type for action. At the end of the vigil, several students who were very upset at how they’ve been treated, and trans students who knew Scout very well, were talking about how we can make campus better and safer for trans students and how we can make things better, mental-health wise, for students. Stuff like, “The president makes a million dollars a year, but we can’t afford enough therapy for the student body?” People were venting, there were maybe 50 to 100 people.

Then it turned into a march over to GTPD [Georgia Tech Police Department] headquarters, and it was tense — there’s a lot of anger about how they treated Scout, plus anger at police in general across the country. Then a protester got on the hood of a police car. GTPD did not tell her to get down, they did not warn her that she would get arrested, they just grabbed her, dragged her off the hood and put her in. … She looked to me like she was choking. That’s when things turned more violent, when someone lit the car on fire, when people were trying to get involved more directly against the police, who were now moving into the crowd and grabbing people and harming them. Three people were arrested.

The media keeps saying that a lot of people at the protest were not students — just out-of-towners looking for a fight — but a lot of people there were students. I saw plenty of people [from the Georgia Tech community] who belonged in that protest.

Now a lot of students are being very pro-GTPD, and a lot of it has been very anti-Scout and sort of shaming Scout.

There’s a part of me that wonders, if Scout was more gender conforming and less different looking, if it would’ve been different. But it’s not like the shooting specifically happened because Scout was Pride president, you know? But also, it’s not like Scout wasn’t a queer and gender-nonconforming individual going to that situation. That is a difference, and it’s still important to mention how it might have played a role in what happened.

Campus as a whole needs a lot of improvement, as does society. But I think we’re a reflection of the America we live in, which also has some work to do.

Did Scout get what they wanted? I would say that the job of the police is not to kill someone. Scout may have wanted to die, that’s true, but it didn’t have to be the police’s job to kill them. It shouldn’t have been Georgia Tech that did it. I mean, ideally, no one should have. I don’t think there’s any situation in which one person should end the life of another, regardless of whether they’re asking for it or not.

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