Deputy Fatally Shoots Knife-Armed Teen In Bathtub

By Mark Gutglueck
Sheriff Shannon Dicus on Wednesday released video and still photographs of one of his deputy’s killing of 17-year-old Aaron James in Victorville on Tuesday, April 2.
James, described by Dicus as “a 17-year-old white male juvenile” was shot during a struggle over a knife while, Dicus said, he “was experiencing mental health issues.” James is the fourth individual to die at the hands of San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies in less than a month.
The deadly encounter took place just after 1 p.m. at a home in the 17100 block of Forest Hills Drive, just east of Brentwood Drive, in Victorville. Deputies had been summoned there just after 12:30 p.m.
According to Dicus, “The situation we were confronted with yesterday is the juvenile was just taken three days ago for harming himself, essentially cutting himself, to a hospital for treatment and ultimately to be sent to a mental health facility. During the transition to the mental health facility, the juvenile absconded from the hospital and showed up at a residence in Victorville.”
Continuing, Dicus said, “The juvenile I am discussing is a foster youth and the residence in Victorville that he showed up at is the residence of his sisters, who are also in foster care at a different location. We received a call from the foster parents of the sisters describing what they call a trespassing situation or an unwanted subject. Our deputies arrive on scene and the 17-year-old juvenile barricades himself in a bathroom, and we take about 30 minutes to deescalate, come up with a plan [and] get a supervisor on scene. During that deescalation process, the juvenile makes statements that he is going to harm himself. Obviously, with the previous history where we took him to a mental health facility, we knew he is capable of doing that. Also, the subject that called us wanted that person arrested via a citizen’s arrest and taken off the property. During the plan, the deputies force entry into the bathroom. You will seen the outcome of that in the bodyworn camera footage that I am going to be releasing.”
In the video, recorded from the perspective of the bodyworn camera of a deputy, what appears to be three deputies rush into the bathroom, where James is holding a knife. The deputies utilize a ballistic shield, which they have postioned between themselves and James, and they deploy pepper spray in an attempt to subdue the subject. A deputy suffers a cut hand, just as James either falls or recoiling from the force of the oncoming deputies, falls into a bathtub, at which point he is shot by what sounds and appears to be a single shot.
James was transported to a hospital, but was pronounced dead there after arrival.
Dicus said he hoped the public would view what had occurred within its proper context, coming as it did some three weeks after the sheriff’s department shooting of another teenager during a mental health crisis, 15-year-old Ryan Gainer, who was African American.
“Obviously, we’ve had a number of these type of situations occur here,” Dicus said. “Somehow, when we had the Ryan Gainer case, this turned into a racial issue. The overriding issue that we need to be paying attention to as a society [is] we have a mental health crisis in our hands. I have championed having a better mental health system. Both in the corrections environment and in our public environment [we] have been challenged a number of times where the only mental health resource that we have in our communities is law enforcement. That’s the only 24-7 resource that we have. So, my plea to all of you is to really look at this in the correct context and do some due diligence in terms of looking into why these things continually occur and why law enforcement is put in this position.”

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