NATIONAL NEWS

Video shows California deputies fatally shooting abducted teen as she surrenders

Apr 3, 2024, 11:08 AM

Abducted teenager Savannah Graziano was following sheriff's deputies' instructions during a gunbatt...

Abducted teenager Savannah Graziano was following sheriff's deputies' instructions during a gunbattle when they fatally shot her in 2022, newly released audio and video show. Abducted teenager Savannah Graziano was following sheriff's deputies' instructions during a gunbattle when they fatally shot her in 2022, newly released audio and video show. (Fontana Police Department)

(Fontana Police Department)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A teenage girl who had been kidnapped by her father was following a sheriff’s deputy’s instructions and appeared to be surrendering when other deputies fatally shot her during a gun battle on a Southern California highway, according to recently released video and audio.

Savannah Graziano, 15, was shot and killed as she ran toward San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies amid a hail of gunfire on Sept. 27, 2022. Her father, 45-year-old Anthony Graziano, was also fatally shot.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department released the audio and video clips, including a heavily produced and narrated 15-minute video, on Friday in response to public records requests made by The Associated Press and other media outlets. The deputies did not have body-worn cameras, but video footage was recorded by a sheriff’s helicopter and witness dashboard cameras.

Before Savannah and her father were shot, deputies pursued Graziano’s pickup truck for some 70 miles (110 kilometers), including along Highway 15. A helicopter crew following the chase reported shots fired from the driver’s side. Other shots were fired from the passenger’s side, according to a deputy and a passing motorist. It is unclear who was shooting from the pickup truck.

The truck and deputies’ vehicles came to a stop on the desert interstate east of Los Angeles in Hesperia, about 35 miles (55 kilometers) north of Fontana, where her father had shot and killed her mother — his estranged wife — a day earlier.

Savannah Graziano was just steps from safety when she was killed, the video shows.

A deputy, taking cover behind a sheriff’s SUV, repeatedly shouts to her, “Passenger, get out!” and “Come to me, come to me!”

Wearing tactical gear and a helmet, the teenager gets out of the pickup truck from the passenger side and runs toward the deputy, briefly crouching to the ground as he continues to give her commands.

But as she rises from her crouch and starts toward the deputy, others from a higher elevation open fire. The deputy screams: “Stop! Stop shooting her! He’s in the car! Stop!”

The deputy’s shouts were not broadcast over the radio, the sheriff’s department said, but the audio was captured by his belt recorder.

A deputy in the helicopter can be heard saying “Oh, no” over the radio after the teen was shot.

For months, officials would not say whether it was her father or the deputies who killed Savannah Graziano. In the new video, the narrator says the Grazianos “were struck by deputy rounds and died of their injuries.”

The agency has not released autopsy reports for the teenager, her father or her mother, Tracy Martinez, and it has not named the deputies involved. A spokesperson for the agency did respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The department said four sheriff’s department vehicles were struck by gunfire during the pursuit, and deputies seized multiple firearms and hundreds of rounds from the pickup truck, as well as flash bangs, smoke grenades, body armor and tactical helmets.

Savannah Graziano was not armed when she was shot.

The state Department of Justice, which is investigating the shooting, referred media inquiries to their 2022 news release and declined further comment. State law requires the department to review any officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian.

Savannah Graziano witnessed her mother’s slaying from the backseat of her father’s pickup truck but did not move to help her, authorities said. Her father jumped out with a handgun and fired several times at Martinez near an elementary school during morning drop-off, forcing students and parents to dive for cover. Anthony Graziano also shot at a father and child near the school.

Anthony Graziano had moved out of the family’s home a month or two before the killing, as the couple went through a divorce, Fontana police have said. Savannah Graziano left with her father, while her younger brother stayed with their mother.

Anthony Graziano and his daughter had been living out of his pickup truck and hotels for weeks before the violence, police said at the time. There were no reports of domestic violence or child abuse.

Officials issued an Amber Alert for Savannah Graziano following the shooting in Fontana, though authorities later questioned whether she went with her father willingly. Friday’s video did not address that, only mentioning that an Amber Alert had been sent out.

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Video shows California deputies fatally shooting abducted teen as she surrenders