Ryan Gainer: Family Of Autistic Teen Killed By Police Speaks Out, Files Wrongful Death Claim


Police line tape

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Two weeks after the violent death of Ryan Gainer, an autistic 15-year-old experiencing an episode at the hands of deputies who prove, once again, that cops are the last people who need to be called when neurodivergent people or people with mental illnesses are going through a crisis, the victim’s family is speaking out.

According to USA Today, attorneys representing the family of Ryan Gainer held a news conference Thursday at the family’s home in Apple Valley to speak out against San Bernadino, California deputies and their quick and deadly handling of the autistic teen.

As previously reported Gainer came at them with a gardening tool while experiencing an apparent mental health episode and authorities didn’t appear to have any non-lethal strategy in place despite being informed that Ryan had a medical disorder and was behaving violently.

“Under no circumstances should a 15-year-old autistic boy with a gardening hoe be shot and killed without taking the time to calm the boy down before using deadly force,” attorney John Burris said. “The police conduct was unreasonable.”

In fact, according to Burris, Ryan’s cousin, who was at the home at the time the incident that resulted in 911 being called began, called back later to tell the sheriff’s department that the situation was under control before the deputies arrived.

“Once a call was made that the situation was under control, the officers should have backed off,” Burris said per USA Today.

Instead, the cops showed up, and now a Black child is dead who would still be alive if they didn’t, and that’s why the family’s attorneys filed a wrongful death claim, a predecessor to a lawsuit, last week. The complaint, which seeks unspecified damages, accuses deputies of a range of offenses such as assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Meanwhile, the family is speaking out about and celebrating Ryan, who was diagnosed with autism as a toddler and was non-verbal until age four. The grieving relatives told The Guardian that he was a  “ball of energy” who never stopped talking.

“He was a funny, talented, goofy kid – just a beautiful soul. He saw the good in everyone,” his older sister Rachel, 34, said. “We want accountability.”

The Guardian reports that Ryan was a foster child when he joined the Gainer family at age two in 2010. He suffered from health issues such as Crohn’s disease, seizures, and an ear rupture along with his early autism diagnosis.

Ryan’s father, Norman Gainer, described him as a “happy” child and thought he might grow up to be quite the academic if he were allowed to grow.

“He was strong and always happy, no matter what he was going through,” Norman said. “Ryan was highly intelligent from a young age, excelling at multiplication in kindergarten and winning reading awards in middle school. He could easily memorize license plates and addresses and had an incredible sense of direction and knowledge of geography.”


At the end of the day, Ryan Gainer was a brilliant child with his whole life and a potentially bright future ahead of him, and that life was cut short because he was armed with a gardening tool while in crisis, and trained officers didn’t know what to do with him other than shoot to kill. Hopefully, his grieving family will find peace and some semblance of justice.