Shocking video shows sheriff deputies shooting dead girl, 15, who was suspected kidnap victim

Newly released footage sheds light on fatal shooting of 15-year-old Savannah Graziano in 2022

Amelia Neath
Tuesday 02 April 2024 21:35 BST
Teenage kidnapping victim Savannah Graziano shot by police while walking to them

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Louise Thomas

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Law enforcement footage has revealed the shocking moment when a 15-year-old girl who was reported as a kidnapping victim was fatally shot in California.

Newly released video captured the September 2022 incident when San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department deputies were trying to rescue Savannah Graziano, who instead nded up being shot and killed.

The department had previously refused to release the video and claimed that they did not know if the teenager had been killed by shots fired by her father or deputies sent to find her.

The 2022 search for Savannah began after deputies feared that she was abducted by her father Anthony Graziano after he fatally shot her mother the previous day in Fontana.

Graziano was considered armed and dangerous as a result of the homicide and an Amber Alert was issued for Savannah.

After a 45-minute pursuit with Graziano firing at pursuing officers, authorities were able to corner his vehicle on the side of a freeway in Hesperia, California.

As the vehicle went offroad a firefight took place with deputies and as Savannah got out of the vehicle she was shot and killed.

The department said at the time that an investigation had been launched into who killed her. Officials also said they did not initially realise it was the 15-year-old girl when she first emerged from the car.

However, newly released footage obtained by The Guardian suggests that deputies stated it was a passenger who got out of the vehicle and appeared to be giving her instructions to come towards them.

Audio reveals that a deputy told the passenger to come towards him
Audio reveals that a deputy told the passenger to come towards him (San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department)

Footage from the incident was released after a series of requests from independent journalist Joey Scott, and law enforcement disclosed nearly a dozen video files, the Guardian reported.

The Press-Enterprise also reported that the files were released by the sheriff’s department after Southern California News Group filed a California Public Records Act request 18 months ago.

In one clip taken from helicopter footage, it appears that at least one deputy shot at Savannah after instructions were shouted for her to move towards them.

Accompanying audio to the footage shows that one of the deputies directed Savannah to come over to him before he shouted at other deputies to stop shooting at her.

“Come here! … Come to me! … Come come come come, walk walk walk walk,” he shouts towards a “passenger.”

“Hey! Stop! Stop shooting her! He’s in the car! Stop! She’s OK. He’s in the car! Stop!” the deputy shouts.

The sheriff’s statement describing that audio said: “You can hear [a deputy] calling her over and telling other deputies that the person who exited the truck was the passenger and for them to stop firing, but it was too late.”

The footage, filmed by a California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter, captured Graziano speeding through traffic. Deputies eventually get to him after he loses traction driving up an embankment.

The audio also appears to remark that it was a girl who got out of the vehicle.

The new footage shows the suspect vehicle getting stuck on a verge
The new footage shows the suspect vehicle getting stuck on a verge (San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department)

As the person exited the vehicle, a CHP official on the radio can be heard saying: “Girl is out, the girl is out, guys. She’s out on the passenger side.”

The helicopter footage shows Savannah appearing to crouch on the ground for a number of seconds, before approaching a group of deputies.

The video blurs out Savannah while the CHP officer can be heard saying: “Oh no”.

At the time of the shooting, officials said it appeared a “subject wearing tactical gear” got out of the passenger side of the vehicle and ran towards the deputies.

“That subject starts to run towards sheriff’s deputies, and during the gunfire goes down,” Sheriff Shannon Dicus said in 2022, adding that deputies rendered medical aid to the person in the tactical gear, who was Savannah.

Savannah Graziano
Savannah Graziano (City of Fontana Police Department via AP)

She was taken to a local area hospital where she was pronounced dead; her father also died at the scene.

Sheriff Dicus also told reporters that the passenger may have also been firing back at deputies, but the investigation was in the early stages, so he warned that was preliminary information.

The video footage is not clear enough to see what Savannah was wearing, nor how many officers shot at her or how many bullets hit her.

The new videos also do not make it clear who fired at police from inside Graziano’s vehicle and the shooting remains under investigation by the California Department of Justice.

The San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department released a statement on Tuesday regarding the lethal force encounter and the release of the critical incident footage.

Mr Dicus said in the statement that following the incident, he shared preliminary information about the encounter, but the investigation was then turned over to the Department of Justice. As the investigation is ongoing, the sheriff’s department are unable to release further details.

He added that the DOJ requested materials and evidence from the department, but in April 2023 they encountered a “ransomware attack,” meaning they were delayed in providing information. By 29 March 2024, he said all requested information had been provided.

“My hope is that this video will be watched in its entirety and provide insight into the unfortunate events that unfolded that day,” Mr Dicus said.

“There has been speculation and misrepresentations about this case, and I would ask the public to allow the DOJ to complete its independent investigation before reaching a conclusion,” he added.

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