LOS ANGELES – Video footage released June 20 of sheriff’s deputies gunning down an unarmed black man in Willowbrook shows definitively that the man was murdered, the victim’s father said.
Officials say sheriff’s deputies shot and killed 24-year-old Ryan Twyman after he tried to run them down, but Twyman’s relatives say the video proves that the shooting was unjustified. Deputies fired 34 rounds into a car in which Twyman was sitting — a fact that family members called a clear case of excessive force.
“After waking up this morning and watching this video, I have a clear view or opinion that my son was murdered,” his father, Charles, said.
Officials said two deputies who were searching for Twyman for weapons violations went to an apartment complex in the 13100 block of South San Pedro Street on June 6 and found him and another man sitting in the front seat a Kia Forte.
Security video shows the deputies approaching the car with weapons drawn before one of them opens the rear passenger side door. Twyman then started the car’s engine and put it in reverse, said sheriff’s Cmdr. April Tardy.
The other deputy moved in and tried to open the driver’s side door, but the video shows the Kia moving in reverse, knocking the deputy on the passenger side off balance.
“At that time, both deputies fired their service pistols at Mr. Twyman in order to stop him from seriously injuring the deputy” on the passenger side of the vehicle, Tardy said.
The Kia continued in reverse in a looping turn as deputies fired in the direction of Twyman. One deputy then ran back to the patrol vehicle and retrieved a rifle from the trunk, Tardy said.
Both deputies appeared to fire additional shots in the direction of the car, which continued in reverse until it hit a metal post in the parking lot, she said.
The deputies took cover behind a pickup truck in the parking lot and fired additional shots. A total of 34 shots were fired. Twyman was struck in the upper body and pronounced dead at the scene, Tardy said.
A man sitting in the passenger seat — 22-year-old Daimeon Laffell — was not injured. He was interviewed and released, officials said. Neither deputy was hurt during the confrontation, Tardy said. Both are assigned to administrative duties pending outcome of the investigation.
In a separate news conference June 20, lawyers for Twyman’s family said deputies were reckless in their discharge of 34 rounds – rounds that also jeopardized Laffell’s life.
“The deputies that fired into this car either tried to kill this man (pointing to Laffell ) or had no regard for his life,” said attorney Brian T. Dunn. “And when they shot up that car, they either knew that he was going to die or they really didn’t consider whether or not he would – and in the eyes of the law those two are about the same. Not one bullet injured him is nothing short of a miracle.”
Laffell appeared at the news conference, but did not take questions.
Dunn also announced that the family is taking steps to sue county officials in connection with Twyman’s death.
“We’re filing for damages against the municipality, which is the precursor to a lawsuit,” said Dunn, an attorney with The Cochran Firm. “We have more than enough to bring this case.”
The shooting, meanwhile, has drawn concern and outrage from activists and civil rights groups across the nation, including the NAACP and the National Association for Equal Justice in America (NAEJA).
Local activist Najee Ali, who represents both the Los Angeles and Compton branches of the NAACP, called on County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and other board members to lead efforts to get more details about the shooting.
In a prepared statement, Ridley-Thomas said he has been “closely monitoring this case as well as other shootings in our community.”
“Not only do I want to ensure justice is served, I also want to help families devastated by the loss of a loved one, as well as witnesses to such violence, receive the timely communication they deserve and the compassionate help they need for their grief and trauma,” he said.
NAEJA president & CEO Royce Esters held a prayer vigil in front of the Compton Sheriff Station on June 18 to “bring attention to the obvious excessive deadly force used by sheriff deputies” in Twyman’s death.
“They had no reason to shoot that boy. They don’t shoot white people like that. They talk to them,” he said. “We’re very tired of this. Every time we turn around, another one of our black boys is being shot and killed.”
Esters said he plans to address the Board of Police Commissioners on June 25 to discuss the hiring practices of the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
“Their hiring practices are important,” said Esters. “They don’t hire enough African Americans. Why do they shoot blacks all the time? It has to be a hate crime.”
On an Instagram post, hip-hop artist The Game wrote:
“Another young black man taken away from his children at the hands of the Los Angeles sheriff’s department. Under no circumstances should anyone unarmed be shot 37 times. This is a sick pattern & happens way too often these days. A father, a son, a brother, a human; 37 bullets & for what?!?!? What’s the explanation?”
Twyman’s father, Charles, said one of his son’s three children keeps asking where his father is.
“I’m running out of answers. I keep telling him his father is at work,” Charles Twyman said. “My wife wakes up crying and goes to bed crying.”
“To some people this is news, but to us – this is destroying us.”
Compton Mayor Aja Brown, who attended the June 20 news conference, called on the sheriff’s department to conduct a “fair and open transparent investigation as to what happened to Ryan Twyman.”
Black Lives Matter activist Joseph Williams also attended the news conference, announcing that his group will “continue to demand justice for Ryan, demand transparency and accountability. Someone was murdered and stolen from him his family and his community. This is unacceptable. We refuse to take this quietly.”
Dunn said, meanwhile, that he’ll do all he can to keep this shooting death in the public eye.
“This case won’t be swept under the rug,” he said. “This is a case that people are going to know about.”
City News Service contributed to this report.