Police Issued an Amber Alert for a Kidnapped Teen—Then Shot Her Dead As She Ran to Them for Help

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said Savannah Graziano had been kidnapped by her father. Both were killed following a car chase and shootout.

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Police Issued an Amber Alert for a Kidnapped Teen—Then Shot Her Dead As She Ran to Them for Help
The California Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert for 15-year-old Savannah Graziano on Monday. The following day, they shot and killed her. Screenshot:@CHPAlerts/Twitter

UPDATE: On Friday morning, a new report from the Los Angeles Times indicates Savannah Graziano, the teenage girl killed by police shortly after they issued an Amber Alert for her, was unarmed when police shot and killed her. Police originally claimed they shot the girl when she emerged from her father’s car, because the officers believed she was running toward them to attack them. Officers also accused Graziano of possibly “firing back at officers.”

But per the Times, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has notified the California Department of Justice that Graziano’s death could qualify under AB 1506, which requires the state Justice Department to investigate cases when “the death to the unarmed civilian is caused by a California peace officer.”

On Monday, the San Bernardino County, California, Sheriff’s Department issued an Amber Alert for a teenage girl—Savannah Graziano—believed to be kidnapped by her father, after he allegedly shot and killed her mother that day. Within 24 hours, police shot and killed the teen as she ran toward them for help.

NBC Los Angeles reports that on Tuesday afternoon, police responded to a report about a truck that matched the description of the 15-year-old girl’s father, 45-year-old Anthony John Graziano. A car chase led by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in pursuit of Anthony, who had his daughter in the car, began at around 11:15 am. Police say John shot at deputies from the rearview window of his car. When the car chase reached Hesperia, officials say Anthony’s truck “became disabled,” prompting him and police to get out of their cars and engage in a shoot-out.

Amid the chaos, officials say Savannah emerged from the vehicle in full tactical gear and ran toward the officers, who then shot and killed her. Anthony was also shot and died at the scene, while Savannah died shortly after being taken to the hospital. At around 11:40 am, the CHP announced on Twitter that the Amber Alert for Savannah was deactivated—without explaining that this was quite literally because they’d murdered her.

As of Wednesday morning, the CHP’s follow-up tweet about the Amber Alert is (rightfully) being ripped to shreds, as users point out the reason she’s no longer missing is that police killed her.

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus didn’t specify who fired the shots that killed Savannah, saying instead that the teen “may have been also involved in some of the fire exchange,” possibly “firing back at the deputies.” Despite this uncertainty, as a result of yet another case of police shooting first and asking questions later, a 15-year-old girl is now dead. (On Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported Savannah had been unarmed when she was shot and killed.)

This incident comes just over a week after Los Angeles police shot and killed another teen outside his home after mistaking the victim’s airsoft gun for a rifle. An LAPD officer shot 19-year-old Luis Herrera eight times on Sept. 17.

The police killing of Savannah Graziano, stemming first from a domestic violence report, is ultimately a tragic reminder of how often police not only fail to help possible domestic violence victims, but can even cause these situations to result in fatalities. Just last year, police in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant when they saw her wielding a knife outside her house, allegedly engaged in a fight with other people she lived with. Bryant’s family later claimed the foster system had failed her, and she’d been subjected to “ongoing abuse” and even “threats of death.”

There’s a long history of police officers killing or further harming kids and teenagers (particularly Black and brown children), making it all the more appalling that children’s safety is often cited as a reason that we need more funding for police. Just earlier this month, a Florida cop who allegedly groped a teen in his custody and ogled at nude photos of her faced no charges. In May, police in Uvalde, Texas, seemingly went out of their way to do absolutely nothing amidst the Robb Elementary School shooting that killed 19 kids. In 2014, Cleveland police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice for holding a toy gun and later defended the act by calling the child a “real and active threat.”

The cycle of police violence targeting actual children feels endless.

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