Scout Schultz was remembered Sunday as a brilliant student, passionate activist and someone whose death should be a clarion call for better understanding of mental health.
All those sentiments mixed together at a memorial service for the Georgia Tech student who was shot and killed by a campus police officer three weeks ago after calling police to say a white male was suspiciously wielding a knife and then confronting the police at the scene.
“We do not need anymore suicides,” said the student’s father, Bill Schultz. “We don’t need more funerals for people who have their whole lives ahead of them.”
About 100 people filled most of the pews in the chapel of a Tucker funeral home to hear family and friends talk about Schultz, a 21-year-old computer science student who led Georgia Tech’s Pride Alliance. A gold urn containing Schultz’s ashes was at the front of the room.
Although most focused on Schultz’s academic achievements and interest in social justice, some also alluded to the student’s battles with anxiety and depression and how that likely factored into the student’s death.
At the end of the ceremony, people were directed to a table at the back of the room containing a stack of yellow sheets of paper. Under the heading “There is hope and help,” the document provided suicide hotlines and other mental health-related information.
Schultz identified as neither male nor female and preferred the gender-neutral pronouns “they” or “them” instead of “his” or “her.” Most of the speakers followed that preference as they spoke under a large color photo of Schultz carrying a flag and leading a rally.
Bill Schultz said he and his wife, Lynne, raised their children to be humanists and activists and that Scout fit those traits at an early age. In preschool, Scout was thought to have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) when, in fact, it was a display of concern for others, the father said.
The elder Schultz described how Scout graduated from Parkview High School in Lilburn with honors and continued to succeed academically at Georgia Tech. Scout was majoring in nuclear engineering, was on track to graduate in December - a semester ahead of schedule - and was planning to go to graduate school, he said.
At the same time, the father said, Scout had an “angry side” because of the belief that the Pride Alliance had been disrespected on campus.
Scout “carried that burden to the end,” Bill Schultz said.
Julia Grey, a Georgia Tech student who was highly critical of the university in the aftermath of Schultz’s death, spoke of Schultz’s “endless” effort to ensure “that people who aren’t equal could one day be equal.”
“Everything Scout did and represented, that’s who Scout was and that’s also something we can hold onto and move forward,” Grey said.
Lynne Schultz told the gathering she initially did not want to speak because she didn’t think she could find adequate words. But she changed her mind when she learned of two LGBT students who recently committed suicide, one of whom had been Scout’s close friend.
“We should not let this happen,” she said.
Scout’s grandfather, T. Scott Ankrum, began his talk by apologizing for not always being able to remember to use “them” or “they” in referring to Scout. Ankrum spoke of loving his young grandchild and quickly broke down.
“I can’t understand the pain, anguish and torment that would lead someone to plan what occurred that final night,” he said.
The circumstances surrounding Schultz’s death remain under investigation. Video shows officers calling for Schultz to drop a weapon as the student approached. As Schultz continued to advance, shots were fired.
The weapon that was eventually recovered at the scene was a multi-purpose tool that contained a knife. The attorney for the Schultz family, L. Chris Stewart, has said the knife was in its holder and that Scout’s arms were at the student’s side.
At a campus vigil the next night, three people were arrested after a protest in which a police vehicle was set on fire. Tech’s president, G.P. “Bud” Peterson, sent a letter to students, faculty, employees and others accusing “outside agitators” of causing the problems. He said they purposely worked to roil the vigil honoring Scout Schultz.