15-Year-Old Who Was Shot and Killed by Police Was Autistic, Family Lawyer Says

Ryan Gainer was shot three times on Saturday afternoon after allegedly brandishing a garden tool at officers

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of a police patrol car.


Stock image of a police patrol car.

A 15-year-old teenage boy who brandished a gardening tool at officers was shot and killed by police in Apple Valley, Calif., on Saturday afternoon, per the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department press release.

The SBSD reports that the deputies responded to a 4:48 p.m. call from family members that the teen, Ryan Gainer, “was actively assaulting family members and damaging property at the residence.”

The Gainer family’s attorney, DeWitt M. Lacy, told PEOPLE that Gainer was autistic and “experienced some type of upsetting of his normal routine because he needed to do his chores.”

“Sometimes with autistic teens, or are those similarly situated, it might cause them to be very angry. They might yell and or disrupt property, which is what happened here, and it was the source of the 911 call,” Lacy explained to PEOPLE. “However, by the time the deputies arrived to the residence, the situation had calmed. Ryan had even been apologetic about being so enraged and apologized for breaking up a window.”

According to the press release, the first deputy arrived at 4:54 p.m. and was “confronted by Gainer, who was armed with an approximate five-foot-long garden tool, with a sharp bladed end.” Lacy confirmed the tool was a hula hoe.

Related: Sister of Autistic Man Whose Caregiver Was Shot by Police Says He Is Traumatized

<p>Alamy</p> The County of San Bernardino County Sheriff logo


The County of San Bernardino County Sheriff logo

The SBSD press release says, "Without provocation, Gainer raised the bladed end of the tool and ran toward the deputy." The deputy then “retreated,” but the teenager chased him and attempted to assault the officer with the garden tool, which is documented by body camera footage released on Monday.

As Gainer charged, the officer ran away and shouted: "Hey! Get back! Get back you're gonna get shot!" 

It was then that the second deputy opened fire, striking Gainer.

Shutterstock Stock image of police car lights.
Shutterstock Stock image of police car lights.

Related: Louisiana Jury Finds Officer Guilty in Fatal Shooting of 6-Year-Old Autistic Boy

The other deputy fired their gun three times, and Gainer was struck in his side, confirmed Lacy. The deputies then provided medical aid to the teenager until paramedics arrived, per the SBSD release.

Lacy disputed the release, and told PEOPLE the deputies didn’t administer medical support until five to 10 minutes later. “Instead of rendering life-saving aid after two adult armed police officers shot and wounded Ryan… laying in his driveway bleeding, they did not give him aid,” said Lacy. “They stopped neighbors from giving aid. They stopped the family from giving aid. And they held everybody at bay.”

Five to 10 minutes later, “Another deputy arrived on the scene and began lifesaving efforts, CPR. But by then it was too late. Ryan had already choked on the vomit that was in his throat. And that's why he died,” Lacy added.

An ambulance then took Gainer to a local hospital, where he died.

<p>gorodenkoff/Getty</p> Stock image of yellow caution tape.


Stock image of yellow caution tape.

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Sheriff Shannon Dicus issued a statement on Sunday. "Our social safety net for those experiencing mental illness needs to be strengthened. Our deputies handle seemingly insurmountable calls daily. Most of these calls do not end in violence," Dicus' statement read.

"However, this one ended in tragedy for Ryan, his family, and for the deputies who responded," continued Sheriff Dicus. "Rapidly evolving, violent encounters are some of the most difficult, requiring split second decisions. While these decisions are lawful, they are awful in terms of our humanity. I feel for both Ryan's family and my deputies who will struggle with this for their entire lives."

The SBSD Specialized Investigations Division is investigating the incident.

Lacy told PEOPLE the family is planning on pressing charges, which they plan to announce in a press conference later this week.

Anyone with further information is urged to contact detectives at (909) 890-4904.

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Representatives for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for more information on Monday.

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