Transgender man with Asperger’s shot and killed by police in Arizona
A transgender man whose struggle with Asperger’s syndrome went viral last year after an online video showed his service dog comforting him, was shot and killed by police in Arizona last Thursday.
The Arizona Republic reports police officers in Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix, were responding to calls of a suicidal man when they shot Kayden Clarke, 24, after he allegedly lunged at them with a large kitchen knife in his home.
Mesa Detective Esteban Flores said the officers were “threatened.”
“They had a lethal weapon coming at them,” Flores told reporters Friday.
Clarke, born Danielle Jacobs, was transitioning from female to male according to the Arizona Republic.
“He was frustrated that no matter what therapist he saw, no one understood and neglected his desire for health and happiness,” said Kae Glenn, a friend of Clarke, in a Facebook message to the Republic.
Family members and friends are questioning whether police overreacted and whether it was necessary for them to shoot Clarke.
“My daughter died for asking for help,” Clarke’s mother, Stacia, told CNN affiliate KPHO Friday. “She was in her own place. And regardless of what she was thinking, what she was doing, she wasn’t posing a danger to the community. There has to be better way for law enforcement to respond and handle situations.”
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Heather Allen, founder of HALO Animal Rescue, a Phoenix-area organization where Clarke had volunteered, said she wished police could have used non-lethal force.
“She didn’t have a gun. She had a knife,” Allen told the Associated Press. “It just seems to me there could have been a better way.”
According to police, one officer was retrieving a bean bag gun when the shooting occurred. One of the two officers in the apartment when Clarke was shot had crisis intervention training to deal with similar situations.
Police have not said how many shots were fired in the incident and the officers involved have been placed on desk duty as the shooting is being investigated. The police officers were also not wearing body cameras, Det. Flores told reporters.
Clarke gained internet fame after posting a heartbreaking video to YouTube last June that showed him sobbing and punching himself before Samson, his service Rottweiler, calms him down by jumping up and raising its paws toward him.
In the description of the video, Clarke said it showed what it’s like to have Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism-spectrum disorder, which he said he was diagnosed with in 2013.
“This is what having Asperger’s is like,” Clarke wrote. “This really happened, and it’s not easy to open myself and share what it’s like on a daily basis.”
The video was shared widely across social media and received more than 2.5 million views.
*With files from the Associated Press
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