The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today to approve a $3.9 million settlement of a federal lawsuit brought by the family of Ryan Twyman, an unarmed 24-year-old Compton man shot to death in his car by sheriff’s deputies in Willowbrook.
The deputies alleged that Twyman tried to use the Kia Forte as a weapon. While the board typically approves settlements without a roll call vote or any discussion by the board, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas held the item to make a statement.
“(This) is a sobering reminder of the family’s and community’s needs for justice, healing and compassion. Although a $3.9 million settlement is unusually large, it is no substitute for justice,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Justice indeed requires an investigation with legally mandated oversight by the Office of Inspector General to ensure that careless tragedies like this one are not repeated.”
He attributed the problem to a lack of training and accountability, as well as leadership’s failure to address such problems.
Though county lawyers used boilerplate language to highlight the risks and uncertainties of litigation when recommending settlement, Ridley-Thomas characterized the shooting as a “wrongful death.”
The plaintiffs — who included Twyman’s three minor sons, his parents and Daimeon Leffall, a passenger in the car — alleged civil rights violations, battery and negligence.
According to the plaintiffs’ court papers, the deputies “violently” confronted Twyman even though he and Leffall were unarmed and not a threat to them. The deputies then opened fire, killing Twyman and injuring Leffall, according to the court papers filed in January.
The plaintiffs alleged the deputies violated an LASD policy that forbids using deadly force against people in a vehicle. That policy states, “Firearms should not be discharged at a stationary or moving vehicle, the occupants of a vehicle, or the tires of a vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is imminently threatening a department member or another person present with deadly force by means other than the moving vehicle. The moving vehicle itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies the use of deadly force,” according to a policy manual posted on the LASD website.
A summary of the shooting provided to the board by the sheriff’s department indicated that the deputies got a cell phone call June 6, 2019, from a detective who was looking for a suspect in possession of illegal firearms. He gave them Twyman’s name and the car’s license plate number, along with descriptions of both.
Guns had been found at Twyman’s home in April, when he was not at the address, sheriff’s officials told the Los Angeles Times.
On June 6, the deputies went to an apartment complex in the 13100 block of South San Pedro Street about 7:30 p.m. and found Twyman in the driver’s seat of the Kia. Another man was in the passenger seat of the car, which had heavily tinted windows, according to the deputies.
Security video footage released by the department showed the deputies approaching the car with weapons drawn, and one of them opening the rear passenger side door in an attempt to talk with Twyman, who started the car’s engine and put it in reverse.
The other deputy moved in and tried to open the driver’s side door, but the video showed the Kia moving in reverse, knocking the deputy on the passenger side of the car off balance.
“The first deputy feared he would get caught underneath (Twyman’s) moving vehicle and (Twyman) would run him over and kill him, (and) fired his duty weapon five times at (Twyman),” according to the summary.
The second deputy immediately saw a muzzle flash from inside the back seat of the car and yelled, “gun, gun, gun!” before firing 15 shots from his weapon to protect the other deputy, according to the deputies’ account.
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 an AR-15 duty rifle from the trunk, according to the sheriff’s department.
The video showed both deputies firing additional shots in the direction of the car, which continued in reverse until it hit a metal post in the parking lot.
A total of 34 shots were fired, according to the sheriff’s department.
Ultimately, one of the two deputies reported hearing someone inside the car saying, “He’s dead, he’s dead, I don’t have a gun.”
Twyman was struck by bullets in the neck and upper body and pronounced dead at the scene. Leffall was not struck by gunfire, but had fragments of glass in his hair and was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for evaluation.
The summary faulted the deputy for opening the car’s rear door while trying to detain Twyman and both deputies for not calling for backup, but said Twyman failed to follow the deputies’ commands.
The department submitted its investigation to the District Attorney’s Office to determine whether the use of deadly force was legally justified, and investigations remain underway.
Twyman’s name has often been invoked by protesters decrying police violence. Ridley-Thomas named Twyman during a Board of Supervisors meeting in June.
“You know the name of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But before then, Ahmaud Aubrey in Brunswick, Georgia; Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky; Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio; Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida; Stephen Clark in Sacramento, California; might I add, Ryan Twyman in Willowbrook, the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. I think all of you
know I could go on and on listing these names. Such lawless acts of state violence should never be normalized, nor should discrimination and racial profiling of any kind be tolerated,” Ridley-Thomas said.