15-year-old girl shot at deputies before she was killed in Hesperia shootout, sheriff says

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Thursday, September 29, 2022
Teen girl killed in Hesperia gun battle shot at deputies, sheriff says
A 15-year-old girl, who was at the center of an Amber Alert, shot at deputies before she was killed in a highway shootout, the San Bernardino County sheriff said.

HESPERIA, Calif. (KABC) -- A 15-year-old girl shot at deputies before she was killed in a highway shootout between her father - a fugitive wanted in the death of the teen's mother - and law enforcement, the San Bernardino County sheriff said Wednesday.

Anthony John Graziano and his daughter, Savannah Graziano, were killed Tuesday in a shootout with deputies on the 15 Freeway in Hesperia after a 45-mile chase. Shots were fired at the officers from the pickup truck as it was being chased.

Once it came to a stop, the girl, wearing a tactical helmet and vest, got out and ran toward deputies amid a hail of gunfire, police said. Authorities are investigating whether she was shot by deputies or her father, or both.

Police have said the only weapon retrieved at the scene was a rifle in the truck, where Anthony Graziano died. There is police video of the shootout that authorities are reviewing.

In a 39-second video posted on social media Wednesday, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said that evidence suggested the 15-year-old girl was "a participant in shooting at our deputies." Dicus did not provide further specific details in the video.

RELATED: 15-year-old girl killed in Hesperia shootout had been staying with father before mother's slaying

A man who was accused of killing his estranged wife in Fontana and abducting their 15-year-old daughter had been living with the teenager out of his pickup truck and hotels for weeks.

On Tuesday, Dicus said during a news conference that it was possible that the teenager had fired at deputies amid the chaos, but investigators were still trying to determine if that was the case.

The California Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it is investigating the shooting. A state law that took effect last year requires the department to review any officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian.

More details that shed light into what led to the highway gun battle were released Wednesday.

Police in Fontana - where Graziano's wife, Tracy Martinez, was killed Monday near an elementary school - offered some details about the family's life before the bloodshed.

Anthony Graziano had moved out of the family's home a month or two before the killing, as the couple went through a divorce, Fontana Sgt. Christian Surgent told The Associated Press. Savannah Graziano left with her father, while her younger brother stayed with their mother.

Police issued an Amber Alert after Martinez's killing, saying Savannah Graziano had been abducted by her father. Detectives are trying to determine whether or not she was forced into leaving Fontana.

A public information officer with the Fontana Police Department told Eyewitness News Savannah was in the vehicle when Anthony Graziano shot and killed his wife.

Fontana police had not received any reports of domestic violence at the home before this week, Surgent said, and child services had not been involved with the family. Neither parent was on probation or parole at the time and investigators believe Savannah was being home-schooled while she lived with her father, who police said liked to camp out in the desert and mountains in his pickup truck.

A 911 caller Tuesday reported seeing the suspect's Nissan Frontier around Barstow.

Law enforcement located the pickup truck and chased it on the highway to Hesperia. Throughout the pursuit, Graziano was "constantly shooting back at the deputies" with a rifle through the truck's rear window, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said Tuesday during a news conference.

Dicus said there were "some indications" Savannah was shooting at deputies during the chase but didn't provide any details.

A firefight in Hesperia ensued when the truck went off-road and somehow became disabled, with dozens of bullets flying. Savannah ran toward deputies - who did not realize it was her - in the chaos and went down amid the gunfire. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly before noon.

Her father was found in the driver's seat and pronounced dead at the scene.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.