A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy involved in the 2019 fatal shooting of a Compton man who was inside a car in Willowbrook was fired by the department, and another was suspended for 30 days, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced Wednesday.
The disciplinary actions stemmed from the June 6, 2019, shooting of 24-year-old Ryan Twyman outside an apartment complex in the 13100 block of South San Pedro Street. The county in 2020 paid $3.9 million to Twyman’s family to resolve a federal lawsuit filed over the shooting.
Villanueva said Wednesday the department moved ahead with the disciplinary actions against two deputies involved in the shooting despite the lack of a decision from the District Attorney’s Office on whether criminal charges will be filed against any of the deputies involved.
The sheriff did not name the deputies, but said the decision to take disciplinary action prior to a DA decision on criminal charges marks a change of policy within the department in an effort to bolster internal accountability.
“That is accountability,” he said. “This is something people are unaware of, but this is something we’ve been quietly doing. And it’s just very difficult because we have so many hoops we have to jump through in terms of holding people accountable. The overwhelming majority of all deputy-involved shootings and all peace officer uses of force that are deadly throughout the nation, the overwhelming majority are justified homicides. The ones that are unjustified … are extremely rare events. When they do occur, we do hold them accountable.”
Villanueva said that under a 1991 legal settlement, the sheriff’s department has been prevented from carrying out internal, administrative investigations into deputies involved in use-of-force cases until the District Attorney’s Office completes its review and makes a decision on whether to file criminal charges.
“If you’re doing your math, you can realize that that could stretch out a real long time,” the sheriff said. “I’m talking years. And that is problematic. Especially today where everyone wants a result immediately.”
According to Villanueva, the DA’s Office is still reviewing a dozen deputy use-of-force cases from 2019, another 19 from 2020 and one dating back to 2016.
“There is no excuse to wait six years for a decision on a (deputy- involved shooting),” he said. “There is none. Ninety days should be the standard.”
He called the delay “a hang-up that has really stalled justice in Los Angeles County.”
The sheriff said the department is now changing policy, and in cases that meet select criteria, the agency is moving ahead with its administrative probe concurrently with the DA review.
In the Twyman shooting, deputies who responded on June 6, 2019, to the San Pedro Street apartment complex found Twyman in the driver’s seat of a Kia Forte. 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 a sheriff’s department summary provided to the Board of Supervisors in 2020.
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 a 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. The passenger was not struck by gunfire, but had fragments of glass in his hair and was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center for evaluation.
The sheriff’s department 2020 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.