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Teen Killed in Shootout Was ‘Likely Unarmed’ When She Ran Toward Deputies, California AG Says

Savannah Graziano, the 15-year-old killed in a shootout between her father and the law enforcement officers responding to her Amber Alert on Tuesday, was “likely unarmed” when she ran toward San Bernardino County deputies, according to a report.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a preliminary investigation by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was turned over to the California attorney general’s office. Those preliminary findings led the state’s top prosecutor to take the investigation over on Thursday.

The California AG’s office had already been notified that they may qualify to take over the investigation under Assembly Bill 1506.

The bill, which went into effect on July 1 of last year, dictates state investigations into police shootings. Under the bill, the California DOJ is required to “investigate and review for potential criminal liability an officer-involved shooting,” particularly when the shooting results “in the death of an unarmed civillian,” Bonta’s office said.

The AG’s office was told the shootout in Hesperia may fit that description due to the girl’s death, the Times reported, meaning she was unarmed when police fired at her.

NBC4 has reached out to the Attorney General’s office for comment on the preliminary investigation and the Times’ report.

On Wednesday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff said in a video statement posted to Twitter that “evidence suggests that Savannah Graziano was a participant in shooting at our deputies.” Sheriff Shannon D. Dicus did not share any details about the evidence cited.

The deadly series of events unfolded Monday when authorities said Savannah Graziano was kidnapped by her father, Anthony Graziano, that morning.

The 45-year-old man allegedly shot Savannah’s mother — his ex-wife — near an elementary school in Fontana. The domestic violence incident left 45-year-old Tracy Martinez dead.

Anthony Graziano then fled from the scene, with Savannah inside the truck when Tracy was killed, according to investigators. Authorities issued an Amber Alert soon after.

Fontana police told the Associated Press, after Tuesday afternoon’s deadly shootout, that Savannah had moved in with her father after Graziano and Martinez divorced. Detectives are now trying to determine whether Savannah was coerced into leaving with her father when he picked her up after allegedly shooting Martinez on Monday, or whether she went willingly.

On Tuesday, the day after the Amber Alert was issued, authorities responded to a 911 caller who spotted the white pickup truck from the Amber Alert driving on the 15 Freeway near Barstow.

Police began chasing the vehicle, and according to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s department, Anthony Graziano fired at deputies out of the rear of the car, shooting “constantly.”

A “fire fight” ensued, killing Anthony Graziano. Savannah was shot when she got out of the truck and ran toward deputies during the shootout. She died at a hospital on Tuesday evening.

Friends of the 15-year-old say she was taken by her father after he shot her mother, and doubt she would have fired a gun at deputies unless under duress. Tony Shin reports Sept. 29, 2022.

Friends of Savannah and her mother said Thursday that the 15-year-old they knew was nothing like the statements coming from law enforcement, who claimed the teen opened fire on deputies while kidnapped by her father who was on the run for the slaying of her mother.

Amiee Luana Akpulonu, mother to Savannah’s best friend, said she believes if Savannah did open fire, Savannah’s father Anthony had forced her to. 

“She was such a great person. She was like one of the best people I’ve ever met,” Akpulonu said.

File source

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