California sheriff’s deputies kill 17-year-old boy with mental health issues | US policing


Southern California sheriff’s deputies shot and killed a 17-year-old boy with mental health issues after he armed himself with a knife and locked himself inside a bathroom at a home, authorities said on Wednesday.

The teen was being transferred from a hospital, where he had been treated after cutting himself, to a mental health facility when he escaped on Tuesday, the San Bernardino county sheriff, Shannon Dicus, said.

The boy, a foster youth who lived in Hesperia, later showed up at a home in Victorville, about 90 miles (145km) east of Los Angeles, where his sisters live in foster care, Dicus said. Someone at the home called deputies to come arrest him, Dicus added, because he had caused trouble there before.

The teen, who had a knife, locked himself in a bathroom, and deputies tried to get him to come out for about a half-hour, according to the sheriff. But when the boy threatened to harm himself, deputies kicked down the door and tried to apprehend him, Dicus said.

A video and still images of the encounter show the teen holding a knife, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. Deputies pepper-sprayed him, and one deputy’s hand was sliced by the knife, the newspaper said.

The teen was backed into a bathtub, where police shot him, Dicus said. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The death came less than a month after San Bernardino deputies shot and killed 15-year-old Ryan Gainer, who had also been a foster child but was adopted as a toddler. He was killed on 9 March when officers responded to a 911 call from one of his family members, who reported he was breaking things in their house in Apple Valley – two hours east of Los Angeles – and “hitting” his sister, but that she wasn’t injured. Body-camera footage shows that two San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies shot Ryan within roughly five seconds of seeing him.

“He was strong and always happy, no matter what he was going through,” his father, Norman Gainer, said.

The shooting death of the 17-year-old, who was not identified by the sheriff, also follows the recent release of law enforcement footage of San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies shooting 15-year-old Savannah Graziano, whose father, Anthony Graziano, was suspected to have had abducted her after fatally shooting her mother the day before.

Savannah was killed on 27 September 2022. In California highway patrol (CHP) footage released on 29 March, Savannah can be seen getting out of a vehicle on the side of the highway in Hesperia, 80 miles (130km) east of Los Angeles, as law enforcement yells for her to walk toward them before deputies begin shooting at her.

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After the shooting, a CHP dispatcher can be heard saying: “Oh, no.”

Dicus said on Wednesday that in both Ryan Gainer’s and the 17-year-old’s cases, deputies had been met with violence. He said parents need more access to mental health services for their troubled children, so that law enforcement isn’t the only option in times of crisis.

“My record as sheriff for the last several years is I have championed having a better mental health system,” Dicus said. “The corrections environment and our public environment have been challenged a number of times where the only mental health resource we have in our community is law enforcement, and that’s the only 24/7 resource that we have.”


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