Deputies Fatally Shoot Black Autistic Teen Holding Gardening Tool

Photo: Getty Images

A California teenager with autism was shot and killed by sheriff's deputies while he was holding a gardening tool, per CNN.

The shooting of 15-year-old Ryan Gainer unfolded on March 9 after deputies in Apple Valley responded to a 911 call from a family member who said the teen "was actively assaulting family members and damaging property at the residence,” according to a sheriff’s department.

Attorney DeWitt M. Lacy said Gainer had gotten upset because he wasn't allowed to listen to music before completing his chores. Gainer hit his sister with his hand and grabbed a gardening tool from the yard, which he used to break glass on the front door.

After a family member made the initial 911 call, the situation de-escalated and Gainer apologized, Lacy said. Another family then called authorities, telling them the situation was under control, but deputies had already been dispatched to the home, according to the attorney.

Authorities said the first deputy arrived at the home and was confronted by Gainer, "who was armed with an approximate five-foot-long garden tool with a sharp bladed end.” According to authorities, Gainer later ran toward a deputy with the blade of the gardening tool raised. A deputy shot Gainer after he allegedly tried to assault him.

In body camera footage released by the sheriff's department, family members could be heard yelling “Why’d you shoot my baby” and asking why a Taser wasn't used.

Gainer was taken to a hospital where he later died.

San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said deputies previously responded to the home and indicated that no force was used during prior interactions with Gainer. According to Dicus, it's unclear whether the responding deputies knew of the prior encounters. Lacy said at least two of the responding deputies had familiarity with Gainer.

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

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