Police killed an abducted teen. New video reveals truth behind shooting

When San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed 15-year-old Savannah Graziano at the end of a high-speed chase involving her father, who had kidnapped her, authorities were firm that they said to have occurred.

San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said it appeared the girl ran toward deputies and was wearing “tactical gear.” Dicus said it was the sheriff’s investigators determined that Savannah “participated in the shooting of our deputies.”

But thanks to new video and audio of the shooting obtained by an independent journalist, that account appears wildly inaccurate.

The video, in fact, shows the girl followed a deputy’s instructions and walked toward him before another deputy’s bullet fatally struck her. Sheriff’s officials said whether or not Savannah was shooting at deputies remains under investigation by the California Department of Justice.

The revelations made national headlines and are part of an ongoing state investigation into the shooting.

Here’s what we know:

Who was Savannah Graziano?

In September 2022, the teenager found herself in the middle of a horrific crime.

Authorities found her mother, Tracy Martinez, shot to death in the street near her home in Fontana, and discovered that Savannah was missing. Her father, Anthony Graziano, has been described as the prime suspect in the girl’s murder and kidnapping. Authorities said he also fired a gun at another person and a child at a nearby school around the same time.

Witnesses heard the sound of more than a dozen gunshots around 7:30 a.m. Sept. 26 on quiet Fontana Street, just steps from the elementary school. Fontana police described the shooting as being related to a domestic violence incident.

Police said they believed the couple was divorcing, but court records showed that divorce proceedings had not been initiated by either Martinez or Graziano, the Times reported in 2022. (A member family member more recently told the Guardian that the couple was estranged and that Anthony Graziano was “abusive and manipulative.”

Savannah was living with her father in the weeks before her mother’s murder, Fontana police told the Times in 2022. The father and daughter were staying in local hotels and motels and camping in nearby parks.

What happened before the police shooting?

Graziano’s truck was described in an Amber Alert about Savannah’s kidnapping and was spotted by a civilian who saw the girl and her father on Sept. 27, the day after her mother was shot and killed.

Sheriff’s deputies found the father and daughter near the Lenwood neighborhood and came under fire before 11 a.m., when they tried to stop the truck, county sheriff’s officials said at the time from San Bernardino.

A 70-mile chase ensued, with Graziano shooting outside the truck with a semi-automatic weapon. The chase ended on the side of the highway in Hesperia when he attempted to drive the truck down a steep embankment.

The Times reported that a shooting ensued and that Savannah’s role in the shooting was never entirely clear, based on Dicus’ statement that the teen played a role in the shooting .

The Times quoted the sheriff, who said she “rushed toward deputies wearing body armor and a tactical helmet and was shot.” It’s unclear if Savannah was armed as she ran toward deputies. Sheriff’s officers confirmed recovering a rifle from the truck, but did not say what was found at the scene.

Two days after the shooting, California’s attorney general told the Times that Savannah did not appear armed when she was shot.

What does the video show?

Video of the incident produced by the Sheriff’s Department was obtained through a California Public Records Act request from journalist Joey Scott, who received assistance from the nonprofit First Amendment Coalition in his efforts to fight for the video.

The video captures the scene from a sheriff’s helicopter.

After Graziano’s truck stops, Savannah can be seen getting out of the passenger side of the vehicle and crouching low to the ground as she walks toward a nearby sheriff’s deputy, who asks her to walk toward him. She seems to hesitate, crouches down and continues to move forward. That’s when she was hit by a deputy’s bullet.

After filming, her body is blurred in the video.

Someone can be heard saying on the radio, “Oh, no” after she was shot.

Deputies on the ground were not wearing body cameras, but the department played audio from a microphone attached to the belt of a deputy who was near the girl when she got out of her father’s truck.

“Passenger, get out,” the deputy yells repeatedly as gunfire rings out in the background.

He said to the girl: “Come here!” Come to me! Come, come, come… walk, walk, walk.

The deputy begs her colleagues to stop shooting as she falls to the ground.

“Stop shooting him!” He’s in the car! Stop!” shouts the deputy. “She’s fine! He’s in the car! … Stop!”

Police attempted to provide medical treatment to the girl, but she was seriously injured and died of her injuries at the hospital, according to authorities. His father also died instantly.

Sheriff’s officials admitted for the first time that a deputy’s bullet fatally struck Savannah. The video also shows that a rifle, handguns, flashbangs and smoke grenades were recovered at the scene, along with ammunition and body armor, but officials did not say whether Savannah was armed when she was shot.

Savannah was shot by officers who had a different view of the truck, according to the sheriff’s department. The department did not provide the names of those involved in the shooting, but said they were at a greater distance and elevation than where the truck ultimately stopped. Those officers shot him because they saw a person get out of the truck and walk toward the nearest deputy, not knowing he was calling for them, authorities said.

The video, which summarizes the shooting, was first published in the Guardian.

California Daily Newspapers

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