california local news

California teen shot, killed by deputies had autism, family says

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A 15-year-old boy who was shot and killed by deputies in San Bernardino County after he charged at them with the bladed end of a long garden tool over the weekend suffered from autism, the family has announced through their attorney.  

The incident unfolded Mar. 9 shortly before 5 p.m. when deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department responded to a 911 call about a domestic disturbance in the 13400 block of Iroquois Road in Apple Valley, according to a department news release.  

The tense moments, which lasted only about seven seconds, were caught on a deputy’s body-worn camera.  

“Where’s he at?” the deputy can be heard asking, before Ryan Gainer emerges in the home’s entryway wielding what authorities say was a 5-foot-long garden tool with a sharp bladed end. “Hey! Get back! You’re going to get shot! 

In the 911 call made by the teen’s sister, she can be heard telling emergency dispatch operators that her 15-year-old brother was committing “assault and battery” and that he was banging on the door to the room where she was presumably calling for help from.  

The call lasted for more than five minutes, though parts of it have been edited out seemingly to protect the family’s personal information and address.  

When the first responding deputy arrived at the scene, authorities say Gainer charged at him with the garden tool.  

“Without provocation, Gainer raised the bladed end of the tool and ran toward the deputy,” the release stated. “The deputy retreated, and Gainer chased the deputy in an attempt to assault him with the bladed end of the tool.”   

That’s when authorities say deputies fatally shot the teen.   

“I never met the boy,” neighbor Joe Gabler told KTLA’s Shelby Nelson, adding that he’d heard from others who live nearby that the teen suffered from autism.  

In published reports, the family’s attorney said the teen was in fact autistic and having an episode at the time he was shot and killed. So far, however, authorities have not confirmed that, nor have they said if they were aware of the circumstances when they arrived at the scene.  

“I don’t really know the family,” neighbor Bob Johnson said. “I’d see the boy coming from the school bus usually on a daily basis. He’ll walk by the front of my house, and I’ll wave and he usually waves back.”  

The family’s attorney says, “The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is not telling the whole truth. These officers should be investigated and probably prosecuted for the murder of Ryan Gainer.”  

While some are criticizing the deputy’s response, saying less-lethal rounds could have been used, others believe that in split second, gunfire was justified.  

“Seeing that video, I don’t know how much of a choice he had not to do what he did,” Gabler said of the deputy’s actions. “A very, very dangerous job and he had to go home to his family as well.”  

Johnson, though, says he wonders if the whole situation could have been handled differently.  

“Even though the law covers that for them, what he did, was there an alternative way of dealing with it? I mean, a stun gun?” he said.  

In a statement about the fatal shooting, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said: 

“Our social safety net for those experiencing mental illness needs to be strengthened. Our deputies handle seemingly insurmountable calls daily. Most of these calls do not end in violence. However, this one ended in tragedy for Ryan, his family, and for the deputies who responded. Rapidly evolving, violent encounters are some of the most difficult, requiring split second decisions. While these decisions are lawful, they are awful in terms of our humanity. I feel for both Ryan’s family and my deputies who will struggle with this for their entire lives.”   

Some of the neighbors told said it took first responders 10 minutes or more before they started trying to resuscitate the 15-year-old. KTLA has asked the sheriff’s department for comment, but has yet to hear back.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.