WILLOWBROOK (CBS) — One day after dramatic video was released of a deputy-involved shooting in Willowbrook, more questions are being raised about the incident that saw the suspect shot at 34 times.
The LA County Sheriff’s Department says the deputies fired because the suspect was using his car as a weapon.
But CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Jake Reiner says shooting at a moving vehicle might contradict the department’s own policy.
He spoke to a legal expert about the case.
One of the questions the Sheriff’s department and the DA have to answer is — did the deputies follow the department’s use of force policy?
“An interesting opportunity for us to see how seriously the Sheriff’s department takes its own policies and regulations,” says Jody Armour, a USC Law Professor.
Armour reviewed the June 6th security tape showing the deadly incident in Willowbrook.
Two deputies had information Ryan Twyman was under investigation for a felony weapons charge — the video shows them approach his car, Twyman reverses and the pair fire their weapons an estimated 34 times, killing the 24-year-old. A passenger in Twyman’s car was unharmed
“In this case, the vehicle was used as a weapon against the Sheriff’s deputies, this incident resulted in a tragic loss of life,” LA County Sheriff’s Department Commander April Tardy said on video.
Armour also reviewed the Sheriff’s department use of force policy which says in part:
“Firearms should not be discharged at a stationary or moving vehicle, the occupants of a vehicle, or the tires of a vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is imminently threatening a Department member or another person present with deadly force by means other than the moving vehicle. The moving vehicle itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies the use of deadly force.”
Does this mean the deputies violated policy?
“If the department policy says don’t shoot at moving vehicles that is some evidence, pretty strong evidence I think for a lot of juries of lack of reasonableness, lack of necessity. It’s not dispositive, it’s just evidence,” Armour says.
In other words, the policy is not the be all, end all of this case — and even though the department hasn’t finished its investigation, community activists have drawn their own conclusions.
“Essentially what we’re saying is if you have a policy, you violated it,” says Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the LA Urban Policy Roundtable, “What good is a policy if you’re not going to enforce it, implement it, train officers to adhere to the policy? The policy is worthless.”
The Sheriff’s department issued a statement that read, in part, “We understand many in the community are upset by Mr. Twyman’s passing and we empathize with their concerns about his untimely death. When a deputy-involved shooting occurs, multiple independent investigations immediately begin at the the scene, including an investigation by the County District Attorney’s Office.”
The attorney representing the Twyman family — which filed a claim against the county — told Reiner he believes there’s a 100 percent chance the two deputies will be found to have violated their department’s own policy.