Nicole Santa Cruz
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department released a video Thursday morning of the shooting of a 24-year-old man in the parking lot of a Willowbrook apartment complex earlier this month, saying that the car involved in the incident was used as a weapon.
The video, narrated by a Sheriff’s Department official, provides new information about the June 6 encounter, which occurred near East 132nd and South San Pedro streets about 7:30 p.m., such as why the deputies approached the vehicle and the sequence of events leading to the fatal shooting of Ryan Twyman.
“We’re in the very early stages of this investigation,” Cmdr. April Tardy said in the video. “Our understanding of the incident may change as additional evidence is collected, analyzed and reviewed.”
Deputies received information that Twyman, who was under investigation for gun possession, drove a white Kia Forte and frequented the apartment complex where the shooting occurred, Tardy said. Months earlier, gang investigators had found guns at his home, but Twyman was not present, Tardy said.
In the June 6 video, two deputies approached the car. One of the deputies walked to a back passenger side door, opening it and peering inside, the video shows. At that moment, the driver, identified by Tardy as Twyman, started the engine and the vehicle moved in reverse, catching the deputy in the doorjamb, the video shows.
“As the Kia reversed, the passenger-side deputy was struck with the open rear passenger door and pushed into the center of the parking lot as he attempted to maintain his balance to avoid being knocked down and run over,” Tardy said in the video. “At that time, both deputies fired their service pistols at Mr. Twyman, to avoid seriously injuring the passenger deputy.”
The other deputy, who had been standing near the driver’s side door, walked to his vehicle and got a rifle, then positioned himself behind a parked truck and continued shooting, the video shows.
The car is shown continuing to back up until it hits a pole in the parking lot. The other man in the Kia, Daimeon Laffell, 22, and the deputies were uninjured, authorities said. The department confirmed that deputies fired approximately 34 rounds.
“In this case, the vehicle was used as a weapon against the sheriff’s deputies,” Tardy said. The deputies have been reassigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the investigation.
The department said Twyman was previously convicted of carrying a loaded gun and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was on probation.
Twyman’s family has filed a claim for damages against the county, stating that the men in the car were unarmed and that deputies used excessive force against them. Brian Dunn, an attorney for the family, said the shooting raises tactical questions.
“There’s never any tactical justification for shooting into a moving vehicle,” he said. “The only conceivable way is if it is a shootout and the person inside the vehicle is actively firing at people outside the vehicle.”
The shooting has sparked condemnation from community activists who have called for an outside investigation.
Twyman, who was in the driver’s seat, and Laffell “made no aggressive movements, furtive gestures or physical movements which would suggest to a reasonable law enforcement officer that either of them was armed with any kind of weapon,” the claim states.
After the shooting, attorneys claim that Laffell was unreasonably detained for hours. The claim argues that the two men didn’t pose any “reasonable or credible threat of violence” toward the deputies.
As with all fatal shootings involving deputies, investigators with the department’s homicide bureau will continue to investigate. The case also will be reviewed by the district attorney’s office to determine whether charges should be filed. The Sheriff’s Department’s internal affairs bureau also will review the shooting to determine whether it adhered to policy.
Last week, people gathered outside the apartment complex where Twyman was shot to raise money for his three children. Family members made signs that said “Justice 4 Ryan Twyman” and some wore white shirts that proclaimed “JusticeForRyan (It Could’ve Been Me.)”
Lexus Twyman, a cousin of Ryan Twyman’s, said that Twyman grew up in the area and came from a large, close family. He was the youngest of three brothers and had two younger sisters.
Connie Parson was inside her home when she heard gunfire that sounded like a drive-by shooting. She rushed out her back door and said she saw two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies with their guns pointed at a white car.
“The way they were shooting, you would think they were in a war with someone else,” Parson said.
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