Gainer Family Files Claim Against Sheriff’s Department

Less than a week after 15-year-old Ryan Gainer was fatally shot by a deputy while the teen was wielding a garden hoe and pursuing another deputy after those sheriff’s officers were summoned to the Gainer family home in Apple Valley to assist them in dealing with the youth’s violent autistic outburst, Gainer’s parents filed a wrongful death claim against San Bernardino County.
Attorneys with the law firm of Burris, Nisenbaum, Curry & Lacy filed a claim on behalf of Norman and Sharon Gainer against San Bernardino County. Under the California Tort Claims Act, a citizen or citizens have a six-month window in which to make a claim against a governmental entity he/she or they perceive to have wronged him, her or them. The government then has the option to accept or reject the claim within 45 days.
If the government rejects the claim or does not respond within 45 days, the aggrieved party is or the aggrieved parties are at liberty to proceed with a lawsuit against the governmental entity or its employees. The plaintiff or plaintiffs are required to file such a lawsuit within six months of obtaining the right to sue by having followed the correct claim procedure and obtaining a rejected claim. If there is no response from the government after 45 days of filing a claim, the claimant has a two year-window from the date of the injury in which to file a lawsuit filed against the government.
Lawyers John Burris and DeWitt Lacy maintained there were improprieties in the manner in which the deputies responded to the March 9, 2024 incident at 13494 Iroquois Road, and they maintain that using deadly force against an autistic manchild prior to making other efforts to defuse the situation was unwarranted. They say the killing of young Gainer was both unreasonable and unnecessary.
Both Burris and Lacy acknowledge that Gainer’s sister did call the sheriff’s department to request that they send deputies “to take him in” because he was engaged in an “assault and battery” and “hitting” his other sister, had “done broke the house, a door and a window” and was menacingly walking about with a shard of glass in his hand, they pointed out that Gainer’s cousin, who was at the home, made a follow-up call to the sherifff’s department before the deputies arrived and told them the situation was under control.
“Once a call was made that the situation was under control, the officers should have backed off,” according to Burris.
According to Sheriff Shannon Dicus, “These are unfortunate events. There are a number of those things going on here. Each deputy is trained to take the totality of circumstances in which they’re dealing [into consideration]. Unfortunately, in this case it was immediately being confronted with extreme violence. It’s not just a hula hoe that you are seeing. You’re also seeing a frying pan. What really boils down here is the first deputy arrives on scene. It’s about 30 seconds before he immediately encounters the suspect and that instance where he’s running away and trying to gain distance from the suspect and warning him that he’s going to shoot lasts seven seconds. When you’re talking time and distance and making these critical life-threatening decisions, particularly with somebody coming down with a deadly weapon on you and having the second deputy come up and see what his partner is being threatened with, the use of a taser in this situation with the amount of time or the use of pepper spray would not have been something that we would have been able to react to. If we are looking at this in the scope of being a human being and what they’re trained for, the deputies followed through with what their training protocols are.”
The sheriff’s department had responded to the Gainer family home five times prior to the shooting, at which times he had been transported to a mental health care facility, either by ambulance or the responding deputies.
“Most of these calls do not end in violence,” Dicus said. “However, this one ended in tragedy for Ryan, his family, and for the deputies who responded. Rapidly evolving, violent encounters are some of the most difficult, requiring split second decisions. While these decisions are lawful, they are awful in terms of our humanity. I feel for both Ryan’s family and my deputies who will struggle with this for their entire lives.”
Dicus said the sheriff’s department had been put into an impossible position by being called upon to deal with a mentally ill individual when it did not have the proper tools or skills to handle such a situation.
“Our social safety network is not working and needs to be strengthened. There is no reason that law enforcement should be the ones that end up having to get involved in these crises, specifically when we’ve off-ramped these individuals to social services that are supposed to be designed to take care of their mental health needs.”

San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus has defended the actions of the deputies as legal, but also said the shooting was a “tragedy” for everyone involved.

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