Video Released By LA Sheriff Captures Deputies Firing More Than 30 Rounds In Fatal Shooting of Ryan Twyman
Ryan Twyman was shot and killed during an encounter with sheriff's deputies outside his apartment complex in Willowbrook, an unincorporated area of L.A. County.
It was June 6, just three days after the father of three's 24th birthday. Friends and family are demanding answers.
Fourteen days later, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department released a narrated video of the shooting and said the two deputies at the scene fired approximately 34 rounds. Sheriff's officials said Twyman had been under investigation since April when weapons were discovered in a search of his home.
WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT TWYMAN'S DEATH?
According to the initial statement released by the sheriff's department, Twyman was sitting in his car with another passenger in the parking lot of an apartment complex near East 132nd Street and South San Pedro Street when they were approached by deputies around 7:30 p.m.
On Thursday, June 20, the department released a narrated video of the incident, using surveillance video taken from two cameras at the apartment complex.
The 9 1/2 minute video shows two deputies going up to a parked car, a white Kia Forte. One of the deputies, described in the video as the "passenger deputy," opens the right back door. At that point, Commander April Tardy, who narrates the video released Thursday, said Tywman started the car's engine and the "driver deputy" approached the driver's door of the Kia and tried to open it.
"The Kia's reverse lights illuminated and Mr. Twyman accelerated the vehicle in reverse as Mr. Tywman turned in a counter clockwise direction toward the deputy on the passenger side," Tardy says as the video shows still images of the scene. "As the Kia reversed, the passenger deputy is struck with the open rear passenger door and pushed into the center of the parking lot."
Tardy says that deputy was trying to maintain his balance and "avoid being run over." In the video, he remains standing and firing his weapon. The "driver deputy" goes back to the patrol car and returns with a rifle.
As the deputies fire repeatedly, the Kia continues in reverse before hitting a pole. The car does not come close to either deputy again.
Flashes from the gun of the "driver deputy" can be seen in the still images while his partner is still behind the open rear passenger door. Tardy said the deputies fired approximately 34 rounds "in order to stop the vehicle from seriously injuring the passenger deputy."
Tardy said deputies had been looking for Twyman since April after a search of his residence uncovered weapons. He was on felony probation at the time of his death, and had two previous felony weapon convictions. They had come to the apartment parking lot after getting a tip he might be there, she said.
Twyman was hit multiple times in the upper torso and died at the scene, according to the sheriff's department. The other passenger was uninjured.
The L.A. County Coroner's office has not released Twyman's autopsy report yet, but it listed the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds.
CAUTION: VIDEO CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT MAY BE DISTURBING >>
THE FAMILY RESPONDS TO THE VIDEO
"After waking up this morning and watching this video, I'm of the clear ... opinion that my son was murdered," Twyman's father Charles Twyman said at a news conference Thursday.
"Shooting at a moving motor vehicle is something that only happens in movies," said the family's attorney, Brian Dunn.
The sheriff's department and the LAPD changed their policies in 2005, instructing officers to refrain from shooting at moving vehicles in virtually all circumstances. The LAPD's policy went a step further, explicitly prohibiting shooting at a moving car unless another weapon was present. In 2016, the sheriff's department adopted that policy.
The 2016 policy change at the sheriff's department followed a KPCC investigation that found deputies shot into moving vehicles at least nine times between 2010 and 2014. In only one case did deputies say the suspect was armed.
Charles Twyman said one of his son's children is living with him now. "I'm running out of answers," Twyman said. "I keep telling him that his father is at work."
The family filed a legal claim for damages against the county, a move that is required before filing a lawsuit. On Thursday evening the sheriff's department issued a statement saying it had no comment, due to the various ongoing investigations of the incident "and the pending litigation."
WHO WAS RYAN TWYMAN?
Friends say Ryan Twyman, aka "Benzo," was a goofy guy who was always cracking jokes. But he also had a deeper side.
He doled out life advice to his friends and encouraged them to follow their passions, even encouraging one of them to go to an out-of-state college to play basketball.
Longtime friends like Darren Jones describe Twyman as an "old-soul" — someone who moved and talked with a thoughtful, slower presence.
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"He was more than a good friend. He was more than a good father. He was a special person," Jones said. Even though he is a few years older than Twyman, Jones said he looked up to him.
On Monday, Jones and a few of Twyman's friends stood around smoking and sharing memories in the parking lot of the Willowbrook apartment complex near where Twyman was shot.
"He had the most incredible energy," Jones said. Seeing him around the neighborhood "was like seeing your favorite star."
HOW HAS THE COMMUNITY RESPONDED?
The initial delay in the sheriff's department releasing details about the shooting angered many in the tight-knit community where Twyman was raised.
"He got did wrong by the police," Larry Sanders, a friend and neighbor of Twyman, said as he stood just a few feet away from where Twyman was shot. "Everyone knew he was a humble dude, a good person. He never had any bad energy."
A makeshift memorial for Twyman now sits at the parking space where he died, with his name spelled out both in red balloons and candles — a tribute set up by his friends and family members.
Last weekend, his friends hosted a cookout catered by Bezy Tacos and Scroggins Smokehouse to raise money for his family. Community members wore T-shirts that said #JusticeforRyanTwyman and "It Could've Been Me," to underscore the national issue of black men killed by law enforcement.
Twyman was one of three people shot and killed by deputies on the same day in separate incidents.
Community members who say they witnessed the shooting say he was shot more than 30 times — which sheriff officials confirmed when they released the video.
Sanders said the sheriff's department frequently pulls up in the parking lot where Twyman was killed and engages with the young black men like himself who hang out in the evenings.
"One moment we'll be chilling, another moment they'll pop up, all ready to hop out of the car," Sanders said, motioning to the open gate to the apartment complex.
But since Twyman's death, Sanders said, the visits from LASD have stopped.
As of the time of publication, LASD had not responded to LAist's requests for comment on patrol activity in the area.
In a statement, LASD expressed its condolences to Twyman's family and friends: "We understand many in the community are upset by Mr. Twyman's passing, and we empathize with their concerns about his untimely death."
STATUS OF INVESTIGATIONS
Several investigations into Twyman's death are underway — including a probe by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office and LASD.
In addition, the L.A. chapter of the NAACP is calling for an independent investigation into the shooting by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
On Monday, activist Najee Ali with the NAACP held a press conference in front of Twyman's memorial and said he had no confidence in the ability of the district attorney or the sheriff's department to conduct a fair investigation.
"That's like asking the fox to watch the hen house, and that's why we want a state probe into this tragic killing," Ali said.
For some, these investigations don't erase the pain of losing Twyman.
"There's nothing they can say to justify what happened," Twyman's friend Darren Jones said.
Sanders said he's been out at Twyman's memorial almost every day to show support and stay positive. But last weekend, he wasn't around.
"I had to go support my other friend, because he just got murdered, too," Sanders said, adding that his other friend was killed in front of his house in a gang-related shooting.
"It's been kind of hard for me lately."
8:15 a.m.: This article was updated with the video and details released by the Sheriff's Department.
11:45 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from the Twyman family news conference and additional background.
12:45 p.m.: This article was updated to correct the approximate number of shots the department says the two deputies fired. An earlier version had 38, it was 34.
3:15 p.m.: This article was updated to correct the quotes from Charles Twyman and Brian Dunn.
June 21/10:00 a.m.: This article was updated to include information about the family filing a legal claim against the county.
This article was originally published at 6 a.m.