The LA County Sheriff’s department is facing questions over a recent officer involved shooting. Earlier this month, two deputies killed 24-year-old Ryan Twyman in a Willowbrook parking lot. Thursday, video of the shooting was released and as often happens after police killings, two very different narratives have started to emerge about why the deputies fired off nearly three dozen shots at Twyman’s car.
On the evening of June 6, two Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies pulled into the parking lot of an apartment near the intersection of East 132nd St. and San Pedro. They were looking for Ryan Twyman. They had information from a sheriff’s department investigator that Twyman, who was under investigation for felony weapons charges, frequented this location. When the officers saw his white Kia Forte parked in the lot they approached it, weapons drawn. Tyman was at the wheel. Daimeon Laffell, in the passenger seat. One officer opened the rear passenger door, pointed his weapon into the car and appeared to say something to the passengers. Then the vehicle began backing up.
“At that time both deputies fired their service pistols at Mr. Wyman in order to stop the vehicle form seriously injuring the passenger deputy,” said commander April Tardy who narrates the Sheriff Department’s critical incident briefing in a video that includes surveillance footage of the shooting.
The officers kept firing at the vehicle as it continued backing up in a reverse semi circle until it came to a stop against a pole at the far end of the parking lot. The second officer went to the squad car and grabbed an assault rifle, took cover behind a pick-up truck and fired into the Kia Forte. Twyman was hit multiple times and died at the scene, according to the department. Lafell was unharmed. No shots were fired from Tyman’s car and no weapons were found inside the vehicle.
The video makes the case for why deputies were looking for Twyman. In April, detectives from the safe streets bureau came to Twyman’s residence with a search warrant and recovered firearms and evidence that implicated him in the illegal possession of guns. Twyman wasn’t home, so investigators spent several weeks looking for him. That search led them to the location where Twyman was killed, Commander Tardy said.
Just hours after the video’s release Ryan Tyman’s family held a press conference at the offices of the Chochran law firm in Hancock Park. They stood at a podium covered in microphones. Members of Tyman’s family spoke along with Daimein Lafell, the passenger who was inside the car when Twyman was killed.
Twyman’s father was one of the first to speak. He said that after watching the critical incident report he believed his son was murdered. Twyman’s older sister Chiquita Twyman also took the podium. “My brother was my brother. He was human. He had a big family and a big support system and a community that lived him regardless of what the media is showing of him,” she said, trying to hold back tears.
Next to speak was Brian Dunn, an attorney who has represented over 200 families in wrongful death suits including some of LA’s most high profile police misconduct cases. Dunn held up a laptop and played the sheriff department’s critical incident report, pausing it at times to explain why he believed the officers had failed to follow proper protocol.
Why did they approach the vehicle with guns drawn, Dunn asked, rather than announce their presence through the squad cars PA system? Why, Dunn said, did they keep firing on the car after it had come to a complete stop on the other side of the parking lot? The LA Sheriff’s Dept has a policy of refraining from firing on moving vehicles except in rare instances.
“By the time this s deputy is no longer in the path of the vehicle there is absolutely no justification whatsoever to continue using deadly force, said Dunn. “They are completely out of harm’s way. But they kept shooting. 34 rounds folks.”
The number of shots is one of the only facts, the sheriff’s department and the family agree on right now.
When asked if the press conference was a precursor to a wrongful death suit against the sheriff's department Dunn said he wanted it to be a precursor to change, adding that the victims do not want this to happen to another family.