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Bodycam video shows fatal shooting of teen with autism as he approaches California deputy with a gardening tool

By Cindy Von Quednow, CNN

(CNN) — California sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a teenager with autism who was holding a gardening tool over the weekend, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and a family attorney said.

A “dramatic” incident that unfolded at 15-year-old Ryan Gainer’s family home had already calmed down before authorities arrived at the scene, attorney DeWitt M. Lacy said.

Deputies in Apple Valley responded to a 911 call around 4:48 p.m. PT March 9 from Gainer’s family, who said he “was actively assaulting family members and damaging property at the residence,” according to a sheriff’s department news release Sunday.

In audio of a 911 call released by the sheriff’s department, a woman can be heard describing the incident and reporting an “assault and battery.” She indicated Gainer broke a window.

“They gotta take him in,” the woman can be heard saying in the audio.

“At approximately 4:54 p.m., the first deputy arrived at the residence and was confronted by Gainer, who was armed with an approximate five-foot-long garden tool, with a sharp bladed end,” the release says. Gainer then raised the blade of the tool and ran toward a deputy, who tried to retreat, the release said.

The deputy shot Gainer after the teen allegedly tried to assault the deputy, the release said. Deputies gave medical aid at the scene before Gainer was taken to the hospital, “where he later succumbed to his injuries,” the release said.

Authorities release bodycam video

Bodycam video released by the sheriff’s department Wednesday shows a deputy walking up to the doorway of the home before Gainer can be seen in the video holding what authorities described as a frying pan and a gardening tool. The deputy can be heard saying, “Hey, get back. You’re going to get shot!”

Bodycam video from another responding deputy shows Gainer running toward the first deputy while the deputy points his gun at the teen and runs away. A preliminary investigation determined both deputies fired their weapons, and that three rounds were fired, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said during a news conference Wednesday.

Family members could be heard yelling in the background of the videos after Gainer was shot.

“Why’d you shoot my baby,” one family member could be heard saying as deputies ask loved ones to back up. Another asked why they didn’t use a taser instead.

Deputies can be seen in the video rendering aid to Gainer before the fire department arrives at the scene.

Dicus said deputies had responded to the house five times in the past and Gainer had previously been taken to a mental health facility. He indicated that there was no force used in prior interactions with the teen.

It is unclear whether the responding deputies knew of prior law enforcement interactions with the teen, Dicus said. He did not mention Gainer’s autism diagnosis, but he did allude to his mental health history during the news conference.

“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, furthering an earlier comment he made on social media.

Dicus said seconds passed after the first deputy arrived at the scene and Gainer was shot.

“What we need to really look at is even if we had the best of health care, the best psychologist in that immediate interaction… there are no magic words. We pay law enforcement officers to stop threats and to stop violence,” he said.

‘It’s a tragedy’

Prior to the law enforcement response, Gainer had gotten upset over not being allowed to listen to music on his laptop, which is something he enjoyed doing, Lacy, the family attorney, told CNN. The teen had been told to do his chores first, he added.

“For most parents, that’s normal discipline, but would engender a more dramatic response from someone with autism, it’s fair to say,” he said.

In response, Gainer hit his sister in the arm with his hand, grabbed a gardening tool out of the yard and used the end to break glass on the front door, Lacy detailed.

At one point, a family member called 911, but the teen eventually calmed down, apologized and indicated that he hurt himself, he said.

A cousin who was also at the home then called authorities and told them the situation was under control, but deputies had already been dispatched, Lacy said.

The deputy “immediately” drew his weapon at the teen, Lacy said. “The deputy presented as a threat and definitely escalated situation,” the attorney added.

Though he is unsure whether family member relayed to authorities that Gainer had autism, Lacy said at least two responding deputies had some familiarity with him. CNN has asked the sheriff’s department about these claims.

“They had had some background, a relationship, a rapport with the family. Or so the family thought,” Lacy said.

Gainer enjoyed running and used it as a coping mechanism when things became stressful for him, Lacy said.

He wanted to become an engineer and came from a “fun-loving family,” Lacy said. “It’s a tragedy that this happened to them,” he added.

“There are no winners or losers in situations like this,” the sheriff said. “The reality is that Ryan’s family and the deputy sheriffs that were involved in this case will have to remember this for their entire lives.”

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