Ryan Gainer: Police killing of Black teen holding gardening tool sparks calls for accountability

Apple Valley, California - Police in California are facing growing calls for accountability after a sheriff's deputy fatally shot a Black teen holding a gardening tool.

The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department is facing growing calls to release the full body camera footage of the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Ryan Gainer (stock image).
The San Bernardino Sheriff's Department is facing growing calls to release the full body camera footage of the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Ryan Gainer (stock image).  © 123rf/vankok

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said officers were responding to a 911 call on Saturday that a boy was attacking his family at their Apple Valley home.

The teen, identified as 15-year-old Ryan Gainer, had autism and was reportedly having a mental health episode when the call was made, The Guardian reported.

Officers later said Gainer was holding a five-foot gardening tool when they arrived and approaching a deputy, who shot and killed him. The family's attorney, DeWitt Lacy, said it appeared Gainer had been struck by three bullets.

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The sheriff's department released partial body camera footage on Monday, but not the unedited video showing the actual shooting.

In the footage, a man in the house can be heard saying, "He’s got a stick in his hand." Gainer then emerges and starts walking toward the deputy, who raises his gun and shouts: "Get back, get back, or you’re going to get shot."

Officers' use of deadly force called into question

Gainer had autism and was reportedly having a mental health episode when police arrived at the scene.
Gainer had autism and was reportedly having a mental health episode when police arrived at the scene.  © Instagram/@alwaysforthepeople

The tragic killing is once again shining a spotlight on a pattern of police brutality and deadly use of force.

"There are great questions as to whether it was appropriate to use deadly force against a 15-year-old autistic kid who was having an episode," Lacy said, according to The Guardian. "We need to see the video and the moment of the shooting … but it doesn't seem like anyone was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury."

The family has also accused officers of delaying the provision of urgent medical care.

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The shooting comes amid a string of incidents in which police are accused of using deadly force against people having mental health episodes and those carrying objects that are not weapons.

Just last month, Los Angeles police shot and killed a man at a downtown warehouse who was holding a plastic fork.

Cover photo: Instagram/@alwaysforthepeople

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