The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has sound policies in place to prevent the unnecessary use of deadly force. The following excerpts from the Use of Force Policy apply to the shooting of Ryan Twyman, and highlight policies which may have been violated, endangering not only the life of the occupants of the vehicle, but the safety of the deputies as well.
The Critical Incident Briefing released by the LASD states that deputies were attempting to serve a warrant for arrest related to the suspicion of possession of a firearm, a violation of Ryan Twyman’s probation.
Prior to arrival, deputies would be advised by policies as follows:
Section 3-10/000.00(par. 3&4):
In cases where Sheriff’s Department personnel must take action to conduct lawful duties where there is not necessarily an immediate physical threat, members shall take into account and communicate (where applicable) tactical considerations predicated on preventing the use of force whenever possible.
For planned tactical operations, such as service of warrants, parole compliance searches, tactical cell extractions, and prolonged passive resistance, members shall develop a tactical plan predicated on preventing the use of force whenever possible. Supervisors shall be present during planned tactical operations.
Department members shall use only that force which is objectively reasonable. Unreasonable force is that force that is unnecessary or excessive given the totality of the circumstances presented to Department members involved in using force. Unreasonable force is prohibited. The use of unreasonable force will subject Department members to discipline and/or prosecution.
During the incident, policies advise:
Section 3-10/150.00(par. 1-3
The fundamental duty of all sworn personnel is to protect life and property.
Members shall be guided by sound tactical principles when involved in any tactical incident. The tactics employed by Department members shall be governed by applicable Department policies, accepted training practices, the exigency of the circumstances, and the application of sound judgment and common sense. Adherence to policies, training, and supervision is critical in preventing an unreasonable response to fear and resolving incidents in the safest manner possible. When reasonable under the totality of circumstances, personnel should use de-escalation techniques such as advisements, verbal persuasion, and other force prevention tactics focused on increasing officer and/or public safety. The Department’s Core Values, a reverence for human life, and the safety of all parties shall be considered when deciding on a resolution to a tactical incident.
Following any tactical incident, regardless of significance, the conduct of Department personnel may be evaluated for compliance with established Department policies and state and federal statutes. A primary consideration in determining sound tactics is whether the actions by personnel increase or decrease officer safety, and/or public safety. All personnel shall be prepared to clearly articulate the circumstances which supported their decisions.
If the Deputies had mistakenly believed Ryan Twyman was armed, policies state:
Section 3-10/150.00(par. 10-12)
High Risk or Armed Suspects
The intent of this section is to increase Deputy safety and minimize the potential for Deputy-created jeopardy where Deputies place themselves unnecessarily in harm’s way.
When dealing with a high risk or suspected armed suspect, sworn members shall be cautiously persistent in performing their duties. Consistent with this philosophy, while every situation is not absolute, in many cases, it may be safer to chase to contain rather than chase to apprehend.
This policy shall be considered when assessing the tactical performance of Deputies involved in deadly force situations. Moreover, the following specific tactical considerations should be utilized when a Deputy is confronting high risk or armed suspects.
Specific Tactical Considerations
Similarly, the following list of definitions and their significance are general principles which shall be considered and/or employed by all personnel involved in a tactical operation (where appropriate).
Cross Fire – A situation created when Deputy personnel find themselves in a position where their field of fire and/or shooting backdrop is occupied by another Deputy who may engage the same intended target.
Danger Area – Any area which lacks or has limited cover and avenues of escape and offers a significant advantage to an adversary (doorway, hallway, staircase, alley, open area, etc…).
Fire Discipline – A controlled and measured rate of gunfire, usually two or three round bursts, which emphasizes maximum accuracy and efficiency and is achieved through constant reassessment and target re-acquisition (if necessary).
Independent Action – Any independent act taken outside a plan and/or without communicating or coordinating intentions with other involved personnel.
Shooting Backdrop – An area behind an intended target which may be subjected to the impact of rounds fired from a weapon. A shooting backdrop will rarely be static as it will change as the target and/or shooter change their position and point of aim.
Tactical Position of Advantage – A position which maximizes the ability to control, monitor, or engage a threat in the safest manner possible.
The Department’s policy on use of firearms and deadly force is:
● discharging a firearm at another human being is an application of deadly force and must, therefore, be objectively reasonable. Each Department member discharging a firearm must establish independent reasoning for using deadly force. The fact that other law enforcement personnel discharge firearms is not by itself sufficient to justify the decision by a Department member to shoot;
● Department members may use deadly force in self-defense or in the defense of others, only when they reasonably believe that death or serious physical injury is about to be inflicted upon themselves or others;
● Department members may use deadly force to effect the arrest or prevent the escape of a fleeing felon only when they have probable cause to believe that the suspect represents a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the member or other person(s). If feasible, members shall identify themselves and state their intention to shoot before firing at a fleeing felon;
In regards to firing at or into the vehicle occupied by Ryan Twyman and his passenger Daimeon Lefall, policies state:
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.
Department members shall not move into, remain, or otherwise position themselves in the path of a vehicle in an effort to detain or apprehend the occupants. A Department member in the path of a moving vehicle shall immediately attempt to move to a position of safety rather than discharging a firearm at the vehicle or any of the occupants.
NOTE: If Department members decide to engage in a pursuit of the vehicle, such pursuit shall be governed by the Department’s pursuit policy (section 5-09/210.00 et seq.).
Because this policy may not cover every situation that will arise, a deviation from this policy may be reasonable, depending on the circumstances. A deviation from this policy would, for instance, be justified if the Department member used a firearm in an attempt to terminate an imminent vehicle attack on a crowd or a mass casualty terrorist event. However, this tactic is not without complications and concerns. It is not ideal and should only be used as a last resort.
Any deviation from the provisions of this policy shall be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with sound tactical principles including the following:
- cover and/or tactical relocation;
- safe distance;
- incident command and tactical leadership;
- coordinated personnel placement;
- tactical approach;
- regard for viable target acquisition;
- due regard for background, including the location,other traffic, and innocent persons;
- due regard for crossfire;
- and controlled fire and management of ammunition.