Advertisement

Video shows teen, reported kidnapped, was killed by deputies as she followed instructions

VIDEO | 14:57
Newly released video footage shows San Bernardino deputies fatally shoot abducted teen
Share

Savannah Graziano, a 15-year-old who was abducted by her father in September 2022, was shot and killed by law enforcement even as she followed a deputy’s instructions to walk toward them on the side of a California highway, according to newly released video and audio.

For the record:

2:48 p.m. April 3, 2024An earlier version of this story stated that the newly released video contradicted previous statements by the Sheriff’s Department that Savannah Graziano had shot at deputies. The department’s comments on the video contradict other statements made at the time of the incident while casting doubt on the notion that Savannah shot at deputies, saying the issue was still under investigation.

The video, obtained through a California Public Records Act request by an independent journalist, contradicts statements made by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in the aftermath of the shooting. In comments on the video, the department also walked back statements its leaders had made that Savannah had fired shots at deputies before her death.

Savannah was fatally shot on Highway 15 in the San Bernardino County city of Hesperia nearly 24 hours after the California Highway Patrol had issued an Amber Alert about her abduction. Authorities found her mother, Tracy Martinez, shot to death in the street near her Fontana home, and the girl was missing. Her father, Anthony Graziano, was described as the main suspect behind the killing and the girl’s abduction. Authorities said he also fired at another person and a child at a nearby school around the same time.

His truck was described in the alert and was spotted by a civilian who saw the girl and her father Sept. 27, a day after her disappearance, authorities revealed Friday in a 15-minute video. The footage, which summarizes the shooting, was first published in the Guardian.

Advertisement

Following up on the civilian’s call, sheriff’s deputies found the father and daughter near the neighborhood of Lenwood but came under fire shortly before 11 a.m. when they tried to pull the truck over, San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials said. A 70-mile pursuit followed, with Graziano shooting outside the truck with a semiautomatic weapon. The pursuit came to an end on the side of the highway when he tried to drive up a steep embankment.

Law enforcement responded five times this year to the Apple Valley home of a 15-year-old with autism who was fatally shot by deputies over the weekend, San Bernardino County Sheriff officials said.

March 14, 2024

As seen in footage from a Sheriff’s Department helicopter, the truck reverses toward several law enforcement vehicles, and Graziano fires his weapon, kicking up puffs of dirt.

After the truck stops, Savannah can be seen getting out of the passenger side of the vehicle and crouching low to the ground as she moves toward a nearby sheriff’s deputy, who instructs her to walk toward him. She seems to hesitate, crouches and continues to walk forward. That’s when she is struck by a deputy’s bullet.

After the shooting, her body is blurred out in the video.

Someone can be heard saying over the radio, “Oh no,” after she is shot.

Deputies on the ground were not wearing body cameras, but the department released audio from a microphone on the belt of a deputy who was near the girl when she got out of her father’s truck.

“Passenger, get out,” the deputy repeatedly yells as gunfire erupts in the background.

He instructs the girl, “Come here! Come to me! Come, come, come … walk, walk, walk.”

The deputy pleads with his fellow officers to stop shooting as she falls to the ground.

“Stop shooting her! He’s in the car! Stop!” the deputy shouts. “She’s OK! He’s in the car! ... Stop!”

Police tried to provide medical aid to the girl, but she was gravely wounded and later died from her injuries at a hospital, according to authorities. Her father also died at the scene.

Advertisement

A girl in her late teens died in the lobby of the L.A. County sheriff’s station in City of Industry late Sunday.

March 25, 2024

Savannah was shot by deputies who had a different view of the truck, according to the Sheriff’s Department. The department did not provide the names of deputies involved in the shooting but said they were at a distance and on a higher elevation than where the truck ultimately stopped. Those deputies shot at her because they saw a person get out of the truck and walk toward the nearest deputy, unaware he was calling to her, according to authorities.

The shooting is under investigation by the California Department of Justice. The Sheriff’s Department declined to provide additional comments or details.

Savannah’s uncle, CJ Wyatt, told the Guardian that the teen was living with her father in his truck while he was separating from his estranged wife. He called Graziano “abusive and manipulative” and blamed him for Savannah’s death.

“She was a really sweet girl at her core, and she didn’t deserve this,” Wyatt said.

At the time of the shooting, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said it appeared that the girl ran toward deputies during the shooting and that she was wearing “tactical gear.” But in aerial footage, Savannah is seen cautiously approaching deputies shortly before she is killed.

A day after the shooting, Dicus asked the California Department of Justice to take over the investigation. In a statement, Dicus added that sheriff’s investigators determined that Savannah “was a participant in shooting at our deputies.”

A deputy and a civilian driver reported seeing someone shooting from the passenger side of the truck during the pursuit, according to the incident video.

Advertisement

The Sheriff’s Department clarifies in the video that it hadn’t confirmed whether Savannah was shooting at deputies; that issue is still under investigation.

Santa Ana police are searching for a suspect in a gang-related shooting that left a 3-year-old girl critically injured while riding in the back seat of her parents’ car.

Feb. 26, 2024

Authorities did find multiple weapons, ammunition, flash-bang and smoke grenades, along with body armor and tactical helmets at the scene of the incident.

Ed Obayashi is an expert who investigates use-of-force incidents for California law enforcement departments but is not involved in the investigation of the Graziano shooting. He told The Times that he believed the deputies who shot Savannah probably had a different point of view from what’s seen on video.

“What did he perceive? Did he not see her hands? Did he for some reason assume — girl or not — that the subject was shooting at the deputies?” Obayashi said. “We don’t even know if he might have thought this was the suspect.”

Typically, when a California law enforcement agency is involved in a shooting, the department will release an incident video within a few weeks or months. The video, which summarizes the events that led to the shooting, may be issued before the official investigation report.

But in Graziano’s case, the Sheriff’s Department released its summary of the shooting nearly two years later and only after a lengthy legal fight over the records.

Advertisement

The gap between the shooting and the release of the video is uncommon, said Lauren Bonds, executive director of the National Police Accountability Project, a nonprofit organization under the National Lawyers Guild. In addition, she said, someone in a leadership position should come out and try to explain the discrepancy between “what was originally provided at the press conference, and what the video clearly shows.”

The incident video marks the first time the Sheriff’s Department admitted that a deputy’s bullet fatally struck Savannah.

But these types of videos provided by law enforcement agencies are not a neutral account of a shooting, says civil rights attorney Christopher Bou Saeed, who has represented victims of police abuse in Southern California. He is not involved in the case, but is familiar with incident videos released by law enforcement agencies.

“They’re generally curated public relations pieces by the government agency,” Bou Saeed said. “They’re not going to throw themselves under the bus.”

Amid calls to defund police, the public relations machine within law enforcement is coming under scrutiny.

Aug. 30, 2020

Journalist Joey Scott received the video and audio from the Sheriff’s Department 18 months after he filed his first request under the California Public Records Act in September 2022. The footage and his reporting first appeared in the Guardian.

“I believe in accountability. I believe in transparency. This is one of the efforts in which to do so,” said Scott, who received assistance from the nonprofit First Amendment Coalition in his efforts to obtain the video from the Sheriff’s Department.

Advertisement

“This type of footage can exonerate cops and it can also show what really happened. Even in watching these videos, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Scott said. “But it’s clear from the footage in this case that she did not need to die.”

Advertisement
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news