A new law requiring state intervention when a law enforcement officer fatally shoots an unarmed civilian was invoked after a police shooting killed the 15-year-old daughter of a murder suspect in California. The death of Savannah Graziano, who was the subject of an Amber Alert, will be investigated by the state Department of Justice. She was shot by deputies when emerging from her father’s truck wearing body armor after a freeway chase and gunfight in the desert city of Hesperia, reports Law and Crime. Deputies had been following Anthony Graziano's white 2017 Nissan Frontier for miles after a citizen aware of his wanted status reported seeing it Tuesday. Police about 90 miles south in the city of Fontana had identified the 45-year-old Graziano as a suspect in the murder of his estranged wife, Savannah’s mother. An alert issued by the California Highway Patrol said he’d abducted Savannah, who was last seen with him early Monday. It described Graziano as “armed and dangerous.” San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said he fired on deputies “immediately” upon their contacting him Tuesday, “putting several rounds through the windshield on the patrol unit” and later disabling with gunfire a second patrol unit that had tried to join the chase.
The sheriff said Savannah was fatally shot after deputies tried to contain her father’s truck in a triangular area between Interstate 15 and a freeway bridge and offramp. A firefight ensued before the truck stopped and Savannah exited, but Dicus said deputies didn’t know it was her as she “starts to run towards sheriff’s deputies and during the gunfire goes down.” Deputies found her father dead in the driver’s seat. “As deputies go up and to render aid and realize this is Savannah in the tactical gear, they immediately transport her to a local area hospital,” Dicus said. Dicus said in a video posted to social media that “based on the information, evidence suggests that Savannah Graziano was a participant in shooting at our deputies.” Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020, the law mandates that the state Attorney’s General investigate, through a new unit, “incidents of an officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian.” Similar protocols are in place in other states. In New Jersey, “any discharge of a firearm by a law enforcement officer in the course of his or her duties, regardless of whether the shooting resulted in death,” is subject to investigation.