A new video finally reveals the truth of how police killed abducted teen Savannah Graziano

Newly released video footage shows deputies fatally shoot abducted teen. Savannah Graziano, a 15-year-old girl who was abducted by her father in September 2022, was shot and killed by San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies as she followed their instructions and ran toward police on the side of a California highway, according to new video and audio footage released by authorities.
Savannah Graziano's body is blurred out in this image taken from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department video. The video shows Savannah followed a deputy's instructions and walked toward him from her father's truck before another deputy's bullet fatally struck her. (San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department)

When San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies fatally shot 15-year-old Savannah Graziano at the end of a high-speed chase involving her father, who had abducted her, authorities were firm about what they said happened.

San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said it appeared that the girl ran toward deputies and that she was wearing “tactical gear.” Dicus said sheriff’s investigators determined that Savannah “was a participant in shooting at our deputies.”

But thanks to new video and audio of the shooting obtained by an independent journalist, that narrative appears to be highly inaccurate.

The video, in fact, shows the girl followed a deputy’s instructions and walked toward him before another deputy's bullet fatally struck her. Sheriff's officials said whether or not Savannah was shooting at deputies is still under investigation by the California Department of Justice.

Read more: Video shows teen, reported kidnapped, was killed by deputies as she followed instructions

The revelations have made national headlines and are part of an ongoing state investigation into the shooting.

Here is what we know:

Who was Savannah Graziano?

In September 2022, the teenager found herself in the middle of a horrific crime.

Authorities found her mother, Tracy Martinez, shot to death in the street near her Fontana home, and discovered Savannah was missing. Her father, Anthony Graziano, was described as the main suspect behind the killing and the girl’s abduction. Authorities said he also fired a gun at another person and a child at a nearby school around the same time.

Witnesses heard the sound of more than a dozen gunshots around 7:30 a.m. Sept. 26 on the quiet Fontana street steps away from the elementary school. Fontana police described the shooting as being related to a domestic violence incident.

Police said they believed the couple was going through a divorce, but court records showed divorce proceedings had not been started by either Martinez or Graziano, The Times reported in 2022. (A family member more recently told the Guardian the couple were estranged and Anthony Graziano was "abusive and manipulative.")

Read more: A terrifying 70-mile crime scene: Wild pursuit, freeway gun battle end in father, daughter dead

Savannah lived with her father in the weeks before her mother was killed, Fontana police told The Times in 2022. The father and daughter had been staying at local hotels and motels and camping at nearby parks.

What happened before the police shooting?

Graziano's truck was described in an Amber Alert regarding Savannah's abduction and was spotted by a civilian who saw the girl and her father on Sept. 27, the day after her mother was fatally shot.

Sheriff’s deputies found the father and daughter near the neighborhood of Lenwood and came under fire before 11 a.m., when they tried to pull the truck over, San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials said at the time.

A 70-mile pursuit followed, with Graziano shooting outside the truck with a semiautomatic weapon. The pursuit came to an end on the side of the highway in Hesperia when he tried to drive the truck up a steep embankment.

The Times reported that a gun battle ensued, and Savannah's role in the shooting was never fully clear based on Dicus' statement that the teen played some part in the shooting.

The Times cited the sheriff, who stated she "ran out toward deputies wearing body armor and a tactical helmet and was shot." Whether Savannah was armed as she ran toward deputies remained unclear. Sheriff’s officials confirmed they retrieved a rifle from the truck, but did not elaborate on what else was found at the scene.

Two days after the shooting, the California attorney general told The Times that Savannah appeared to be unarmed when she was shot.

What does the video show?

The incident video produced by the Sheriff's Department was obtained through a California Public Records Act request by journalist Joey Scott, who received assistance from the nonprofit First Amendment Coalition in his efforts to fight for the video.

The video captures the scene from a sheriff's helicopter.

After Graziano's truck stops, Savannah can be seen getting out of the passenger side of the vehicle and crouching low to the ground as she moves toward a nearby sheriff’s deputy, who instructs her to walk toward him. She seems to hesitate, crouches and continues to move forward. That’s when she is struck by a deputy’s bullet.

Read more: Teen killed in law enforcement shootout was likely unarmed, state AG says

After the shooting, her body is blurred out in the video.

Someone can be heard saying over the radio, “Oh, no,” after she is shot.

Deputies on the ground were not wearing body cameras, but the department released audio from a microphone on the belt of a deputy who was near the girl when she got out of her father’s truck.

“Passenger, get out,” the deputy repeatedly yells as gunfire erupts in the background.

He instructs the girl, “Come here! Come to me! Come, come, come … walk, walk, walk.”

The deputy pleads with his fellow officers to stop shooting as she falls to the ground.

“Stop shooting her! He’s in the car! Stop!” the deputy shouts. “She’s OK! He’s in the car! ... Stop!”

Police tried to provide medical aid to the girl, but she was gravely wounded and later died from her injuries at a hospital, according to authorities. Her father also died at the scene.

Sheriff's officials have admitted for the first time that a deputy's bullet fatally struck Savannah. The video also showed that a rifle, handguns, flash-bang and smoke grenades were recovered from the scene, along with ammunition and body armor, but officials did not say whether Savannah was armed when she was gunned down.

Savannah was shot by deputies who had a different view of the truck, according to the Sheriff’s Department. The department did not provide the names of those involved in the shooting but said they were at a distance and on a higher elevation than where the truck ultimately stopped. Those deputies shot at her because they saw a person get out of the truck and walk toward the nearest deputy, unaware he was calling to her, according to authorities.

The video, which summarizes the shooting, was first published in the Guardian.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.