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Devastating Bodycam Video Shows the Moment Deputies Opened Fire on 15-year-Old With Autism

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By Hannah Fry
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles — San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officials have confirmed that law enforcement responded five times this year to the Apple Valley home of a 15-year-old with autism before deputies fatally shot the teen this weekend in an incident that has raised protest from family members and mental health experts. news online

It is not clear how much information deputies had when they arrived at Ryan Gainer’s home on Iroquois Road on Saturday afternoon, but Ryan had been taken to a mental health facility several times during law enforcement’s previous visits to the home, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said.

“There is no reason that law enforcement should be the ones that end up having to get involved in these crises especially when we’ve offramped these individuals to social services that are supposed to be designed to take care of their mental health needs,” Dicus said.

On Saturday, Ryan had become upset that his parents had demanded he complete his household chores before he would be allowed to play video games or listen to music on his computer. A family member called 911 for help, asking dispatch to send deputies to their home to “take him in” because he was breaking glass and hitting his sister, according to a portion of the call released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

By the time deputies arrived, his father had helped him calm down, but for an unknown reason, when the deputy arrived Ryan walked toward him carrying a gardening tool, said DeWitt Lacy, a civil rights attorney representing Ryan’s family.
Lacy said deputies should have had information in their systems from previous visits that “this was somebody that had some mental health issues at times,” adding that the “shots were inappropriate and uncalled for.”

Areva Martin, a civil rights attorney and disability rights advocate, said the shooting “raises grave questions about the adequacy of law enforcement training and their ability to de-escalate situations involving vulnerable members of our community.”
Authorities on Wednesday also released additional footage from deputies’ body-worn cameras showing the moment two deputies opened fire on the teenager. The two deputies fired a total of three rounds, Dicus said.

The body camera footage begins with the deputy approaching the front door of the family’s home. Broken glass is strewn across the tile floor in the entryway. Seconds later, Ryan is seen in a teal tracksuit striding toward the deputy holding a hula hoe, a type of garden tool that has a metal D-shaped fixture on the end for digging into dirt.

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The deputy yelled, “Hey, get back, you’re going to get shot” as Ryan approached him. Footage from a second deputy’s body camera at another angle showed the first deputy pointing his gun at Ryan as he ran from the teen. The second deputy, who had just arrived at the home, had his weapon drawn and also opened fire, the footage shows.

Ryan’s family screamed in anguish as the boy lay on the gravel driveway, motionless and moaning in pain. His mother cried out.
“Oh my God! Why would you do that? Why did you shoot my baby?”

Ryan’s mother and another woman who was not identified attempted to get closer to the boy, but were told by deputies to “get back in the residence,” the video shows. Ryan’s mother sat nearby on a trailer parked in the driveway crying and watching as deputies tended to the boy’s wounds and performed CPR.

A woman sitting with her, who was not identified, asked deputies why they didn’t use their Tasers. “You didn’t have to shoot him,” she said.

By the time paramedics arrived, the boy had a weak pulse, according to the video footage. Ryan later died at a hospital.
Dicus defended the deputy’s actions during the news conference, saying that they followed their training protocols and were tasked with making a split-second decision when being confronted by what he classified as “extreme violence.”
“We pay law enforcement officers to stop threats and to stop violence,” he said.

Lacy took issue with law enforcement’s characterization of the situation, arguing that officers should have used de-escalating techniques rather than resorting to lethal force.
“It again occurs where law enforcement uses racist tropes to demonize this 15-year-old autistic child into a hulking Black monster that needed to be killed,” Lacy said Thursday. “We won’t tolerate it. We’ll bring this matter to law and let a jury of our peers decide.”

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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