‘Stop Shooting Her!’: Video of Fatal Shooting of Teen Shows Why Police Transparency Matters

Audio and video recordings FAC demanded the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department release helped journalists shed new light on how deputies tasked with rescuing a teenage girl ended up killing her.

Law enforcement officers have the power to shoot and kill people. When they use that power, the people deserve the full story, not just the official story. That’s why California passed a landmark set of laws guaranteeing public access to all videos of police shootings and many other important records. 

In September 2022, one or more San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Savannah Graziano, a 15-year-old girl they were tasked with rescuing. The shooting came by the side of a Southern California freeway after a prolonged pursuit and shootout with her father, Anthony Graziano, who authorities say killed his estranged wife and was suspected of kidnapping Savannah. 

Soon after the shooting, the sheriff released a video statement asserting,“Savannah Graziano was a participant in shooting at our deputies.” But, as news coverage at the time also made clear, the sheriff “did not say whether she was armed when she was running toward deputies, or who shot her.” 

To investigate that claim, independent journalist Joey Scott submitted a request under the California Public Records Act for videos of the shootout. But the sheriff’s department stonewalled for 18 months. Only after FAC demanded disclosure did the sheriff finally release videos and other recordings.

As the Los Angeles Times reported, the video footage “contradicts statements made by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in the aftermath of the shooting,” and “the department also walked back statements its leaders had made that Savannah had fired shots at deputies before her death.” Savannah, audio recording reveals, was following a deputy’s command to exit her father’s truck and go to him while at least one other deputy fired on her. Aerial video from a law enforcement helicopter shows the girl appearing to walk cautiously, crouching at times, toward the deputy. “Stop shooting her!” the deputy can be heard yelling.

With the recordings the press and public can now hold the sheriff to account, which is exactly why FAC fights to enforce police transparency laws