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Released Bodycam Footage Shows Fatal Shooting of Autistic Teen Who Lunged at Deputy With Garden Tool

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A 15-year-old autistic boy from California tragically lost his life over the weekend after he charged a deputy with a sharp gardening tool, resulting in gunfire from the officer. The incident unfolded following a 911 call reporting the teen’s aggressive behavior towards family members and property damage at a residence in Apple Valley.

Upon receiving the call, the Apple Valley police department responded promptly to the scene. However, details about the deputies involved in the incident have not been disclosed.

According to authorities, the confrontation occurred around 4:54 p.m. when a sheriff’s deputy encountered the teenager, identified as Ryan Gainer, armed with a 5-foot-long garden tool with a sharp-bladed end.

Gainer allegedly raised the tool and charged towards the deputy without any provocation, prompting the officer to retreat. Despite the deputy’s attempts to distance himself from the situation, Gainer continued to pursue him with the tool, leading to a lethal force encounter.

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The sheriff’s department released body camera footage capturing parts of the encounter. In the video, Gainer emerges from the residence, brandishing the garden tool while wearing a blue sweatshirt and sweatpants. The officer can be heard repeatedly warning Gainer to step back to avoid being shot. However, Gainer persisted, prompting the officer to retreat.

Another clip from a different deputy’s body camera provides an alternate perspective of the incident, showing the same sequence of events from a farther angle. Although the footage ends before any shots are fired, it underscores the tense and rapidly evolving nature of the encounter.

Following the gunfire, deputies provided immediate medical assistance to Gainer before he was transported to a local hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries. The specialized investigations division of the sheriff’s office is currently conducting an inquiry into the incident.

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Though officials did not say whether Gainer was autistic, Sheriff Dicus said in a statement: “Our social safety net for those experiencing mental illness needs to be strengthened.”

Sheriff Dicus went on to emphasize the challenges faced by law enforcement officers in handling such volatile situations. He acknowledged the tragic outcome of the encounter, expressing condolences to Gainer’s family and the deputies involved. Dicus stressed the importance of bolstering support systems for individuals experiencing mental health crises.

“Our deputies handle seemingly insurmountable calls daily. Most of these calls do not end in violence. However, this one ended in tragedy for Ryan, his family, and the deputies who responded,” Dicus said.

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“Rapidly evolving, violent encounters are some of the most difficult, requiring split-second decisions,” Dicus said. “While these decisions are lawful, they are awful regarding our humanity. I feel for Ryan’s family and my deputies, who will struggle with this for their entire lives.”

While the circumstances surrounding Gainer’s death are miserable, they underscore the complexities and difficulties inherent in law enforcement responses to mental health emergencies.

The incident serves as a sobering reminder of the need for enhanced training and resources to address similar situations in the future.

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