California deputies fatally shoot teen with autism who was holding gardening tool, attorney says

California deputies fatally shoot teen with autism who was holding gardening tool, attorney says - Crime and Courts - News

Tragic Enccounter Between Sheriff’s Deputies and a Teenager with Autism: The Fatal Shooting of Ryan Gainer

A heart-wrenching incident unfolded at the residence of 15-year-old Ryan Gainer in Apple Valley, California, on March 9, 2023, resulting in his tragic death. According to a statement released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and family attorney DeWitt M. Lacy, this unfortunate incident occurred after deputies responded to a distress call from the Gainer family regarding an altercation at their home.

Background of the Incident:

Before the law enforcement arrival, the situation had already de-escalated, as reported by attorney DeWitt M. Lacy. The unfortunate sequence of events was triggered when Ryan Gainer, who has autism, became upset over not being allowed to listen to music on his laptop and was asked to complete chores first.

Incident Escalation:

During this moment of agitation, Gainer struck his sister in the arm and went on to grab a gardening tool from the yard and used it to break the front door’s glass. As a result, one of the family members placed an emergency call to 911. However, the situation had calmed down before the authorities arrived at the scene.

The Law Enforcement Intervention:

At approximately 4:54 p.m., a deputy from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene, where they encountered Gainer holding what appeared to be a five-foot-long gardening tool with a sharp blade. As reported by the sheriff’s department, Ryan then charged towards the deputy, who felt threatened and responded by discharging their firearm.

Immediate Aftermath:

Following the shooting, the deputies administered medical aid to Gainer at the scene before he was transported to the hospital, where he unfortunately succumbed to his injuries.

The Role of Bodycam Footage:

Body camera footage from the responding deputies was later released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on March 15, 2023. These videos document the moments leading up to the fatal shooting and show Ryan carrying a frying pan and gardening tool as he approached the deputies, who instructed him to get back or face being shot.

Preliminary Investigation:

The preliminary investigation determined that both deputies had discharged their weapons during the encounter, with three rounds being fired in total. During a press conference on March 15, Sheriff Shannon Dicus acknowledged that family members could be heard yelling in the background of the footage following Ryan’s shooting.

Prior Interactions:

Sheriff Dicus mentioned that law enforcement had responded to the Gainer residence five times in the past, with Ryan having been taken to a mental health facility on at least one occasion. Dicus did not mention Ryan’s autism diagnosis during the press conference but hinted at his mental health history.

Family Perspective:

DeWitt M. Lacy, the family attorney, shared that Gainer was an avid runner and used this activity as a coping mechanism when dealing with stress. He also stated that Ryan wanted to become an engineer and came from a loving family. Lacy was unsure whether the responding deputies were aware of Gainer’s autism diagnosis or prior interactions with law enforcement.


This unfortunate incident raises questions about the handling of mental health crises by law enforcement agencies and the importance of proper communication between families, mental health professionals, and law enforcement when dealing with individuals displaying signs of distress.

It is essential to remember that this tragic event leaves a lasting impact on both the Gainer family and the involved deputies, with none being able to escape the consequences of this incident for the rest of their lives.