Teenager killed in shootout with law enforcement likely unarmed, state AG says

Anthony Graziano’s van sits on the side of Highway 15 in Hesperia, where he and his 15-year-old daughter, Savannah, died in a shootout with law enforcement on Tuesday. (KABC-TV/via Associated Press)

Savannah Graziano, the 15-year-old girl killed in a shootout between her father and law enforcement on Tuesday in Hesperia, was likely unarmed as she ran towards deputies, a preliminary inquest has heard. at the California Attorney General’s office.

The initial findings prompted the California Department of Justice to resume the investigation, which was being led by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, the state attorney general’s office told The Times in an email on Thursday. mail.

The Sheriff’s Department said it notified the Justice Department that the shooting qualified as AB 1506 due to the girl’s death. Under the law, the Justice Department is required to investigate cases in which “the death of an unarmed civilian is caused by a California peace officer,” according to a bulletin sent last year by Atti. Gen. Rob Bonta to police chiefs, sheriffs, state law enforcement and district attorneys.

The preliminary investigation into the shooting indicated the matter was qualified by law, a spokesperson for Bonta’s office said.

The shooting came at the end of a 70-mile chase in which San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies attempted to arrest Savannah’s father, Anthony Graziano, 45, on suspicion of killing her ex -wife the day before in Fontana.

Sheriff officials said they came under constant fire during the chase, with bullets piercing the windshields of patrol cars and, at one point, disabling a deputy’s vehicle. Law enforcement killed Graziano and Savannah after pulling his white pickup truck off Highway 15.

On Wednesday, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said “evidence suggests that Savannah also participated in the shootings of our deputies.”

Dicus, who said Savannah was wearing a body armor and tactical helmet as she ran towards deputies, declined to publicly answer questions about whether the teenager was armed when she was shot and killed.

The only weapon investigators confirmed they recovered from the crime scene was an AR-15 type rifle found in the truck near Graziano, Dicus said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Dicus said his decision to contact the Justice Department came after an initial investigation by his department, which included an overnight search of a crime scene that spanned dozens of miles.

The sheriff’s department declined to answer additional questions about the decision or Savannah’s death. A spokesperson said the department would not comment further on the investigation and referred all questions to the state attorney general’s office.

The shooting happened nearly 24 hours after the California Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert for Savannah. The alert was triggered after Fontana police found Graziano’s wife, Tracy Martinez, shot dead in the street near his Fontana home and the girl missing.

Law enforcement officials have since begun to take a closer look at what role, if any, Savannah may have played as her father fled authorities. Sheriff officials said it appears the girl shot deputies during the mile-long chase.

On Thursday, Fontana police say new video obtained by detectives from a witness to Martinez’s murder shows Savannah was in the back of Graziano’s truck seconds before he got out and killed his ex. woman.

Fontana Police Sgt. Christian Surgent said the eight-second clip shows Graziano in the driver’s seat arguing with Martinez, who was sitting in the passenger seat. Savannah is seen in the video in the backseat of the truck, behind Martinez.

The video shows the couple in a heated argument, Surgent said. Seconds later, police say, Martinez exits the truck. Graziano then comes out and shoots him repeatedly, authorities said. The video does not show the shooting.

Detectives initially thought Graziano picked up Savannah from an unknown location after the shooting. But video obtained by detectives Wednesday from a Ring camera in the area also confirmed that Savannah was in the backseat of the truck when her mother was shot, Surgent said.

The Fontana Police Department said it was unclear whether the girl voluntarily left with her father after her mother died. Investigators said they believe Graziano and his wife were going through a divorce and that he had moved out of their Fontana home.

Savannah decided to live with her father about a month ago, Surgent said. The two had stayed in local hotels and motels and camped in nearby parks before her mother was killed.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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