Bullets are the solution to every problem

Savannah Graziano was 15 years old when her father murdered her mother and kidnapped her. An amber alert went out, and the police gave chase, which is never good. They decided the way to resolve the problem was with guns, obviously, and they had a wild west shootout with Graziano’s father, while she was in the car. At one point, Savannah saw an opportunity to escape, jumped out of the car, and ran toward the police.

So the police shot her dead.

Then they killed her father.

You know, I kind of think that in these kinds of situations the very highest priority ought to be to rescue the child, and even when the bad guy shoots first, the rescuers ought to exercise a great deal of restraint, tempting as it might be to use the only tool your feeble brain has been trained to use to solve all problems.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Sometimes, relatives in USA call the police because they are concerned about the welfare of a mentally sick family member.
    There is a nonzero ratio of such interventions ending really badly.

  2. laurian says

    I read reports that the young person had fired on the cops. I suspect there is a bunch more to this story.

  3. raven says

    I read reports that the young person had fired on the cops. I suspect there is a bunch more to this story.

    I read that too.

    Then again, the police would say that whether it was true or not.
    PZ is wrong that their only tool is a gun.
    They also lie a lot for purposes like…covering up their mistakes.

  4. mooskaya says

    That poor little girl, how terrified she must have been.

    And how infuriating that the police will totally blame the kidnapper and his sentence will be increased accordingly, while they once again walk away from a cold-blooded murder scot-free. And to be clear, I won’t cry any tears for the kidnapping murderer, but that he will effectively pay for the murderous incompetence and psychosis of the police is utterly dystopian.

  5. raven says

    @1 Yeah, that happens a lot.

    We didn’t have much of a mental health treatment system to start with and most of that has been dismantled. Reagan started it by closing all the mental hospitals in California and sending everyone to “community treatment centers.” Those community treatment centers didn’t actually exist though. That was the beginning of the homeless problem in California.

    People with Untreated Mental Illness 16 Times More Likely to Be Killed By Law Enforcement

    People with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement, according to a new study released today by the Treatment Advocacy Center.

    Numbering fewer than 1 in 50 U.S. adults, individuals with untreated severe mental illness are involved in at least 1 in 4 and as many as half of all fatal police shootings, the study reports. Because of this prevalence, reducing encounters between on-duty law enforcement and individuals with the most severe psychiatric diseases may represent the single most immediate, practical strategy for reducing fatal police shootings in the United States, the authors conclude.

    “By dismantling the mental illness treatment system, we have turned mental health crisis from a medical issue into a police matter,


  6. JM says

    @2 laurian: Reports said that but other reports say that only one weapon was found. The police are sort of stuck on which dead person they want to claim was shooting at them. It’s still all initial reports so can’t be trusted too far.

  7. microraptor says

    The cops made at least one attempt to claim that the victim was in full tactical gear when she most obviously wasn’t, so the claim that she was shooting at them is quite difficult to swallow.

  8. Tethys says

    Yet another data point that shows the police are merely criminals with badges and guns.

    I don’t believe a 15 year old jumped from a vehicle to shoot at cops, period. I’m sure all their body cams mysteriously did not film this incident.

  9. says

    Schools in the US need to have somebody to come in once a year and give the kids a calm talk on how you should never trust a police officer.

  10. says

    @11: Well, kids are already getting pamphlets telling them they have to obey police officers at all times, no matter what, and never make any sudden moves, because cops are trained to act like cornered animals and are likely to seriously hurt you if you don’t obey their every word. So that’s pretty close to what you just suggested…

  11. Paul K says

    #11, Ian King: In 1976, when I was in tenth grade, I did have someone come into my school and tell us (the few kids in an elective history class wherein we were currently discussing guns in American culture and history) just what you said. And it was a cop who did it. He told us that if anyone ever approached us who was carrying a gun, to assume we were in immediate danger, no matter who it was, and that we needed to be utterly on guard with anything we did or said. That we needed to assume that we could die at any second, for very little, or no reason. Someone asked, ‘What about cops?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely!’

    This might just have saved my life. A few months later, my brother and I were walking near our home when a cop stepped out from around a corner, and just like on TV, yelled, ‘Stop, or I’ll shoot!’, while he pulled out and pointed his gun at us. The thing is, we had already stopped. When we had seen the flashing lights of a police vehicle from around the corner we stopped to discuss whether we should turn and go the other way. He yelled at us to get down on the ground on our bellies and put our hands on our heads, again, just like on TV. We did, and he approached us, gun pointed the whole time, with him continuing to yell things like ‘Don’t move!’ (We weren’t.) And ‘Stay where you are!’ (Duh.) I did just what I was told, and moved slowly and carefully, without making eye contact. (I’ve had encounters with animals where I acted the same way, for the same reasons.)

    Then my brother did something really stupid. He lifted his head and aggressively said (almost yelling himself, the idiot) ‘What’s the charge?’ The cop lost it and screamed, ‘Shut up!’ And I, lying right next to my brother, kicked him, hard, and gave him a look that he clearly understood. That look said, ‘Are you fucking out of your mind?!’ He checked back into reality and calmed himself down.

    Long story not quite as long, we survived this because another cop came around the corner and told this one something along the lines of ‘We got the guy; come on,’ and our cop walked away backwards, gun still drawn for a while. Then he just walked off with no explanation.

    Boy, did I have a ‘talk’ with my brother afterwards.

    And that was the first time I had a cop pull a gun on me, and I’m a white guy who’s never done anything to remotely deserve that kind of treatment. It happened again years later, and two other times cops have put their hands on their guns when dealing with me, very deliberately, like I was some kind of threat.

    ACAB? Again, duh. You have to assume that, every time.

  12. silvrhalide says


    The girl’s father killed his wife hours earlier and took Savannah with him.
    My guess is that she saw an opportunity to escape and took it… and the cops shot her.
    Only a rifle was found in the father’s car.
    So… we are expected to believe that a 15 year old girl had the rifle, not her crazy homicidal father and that she was running towards the police–shooting at them, while running?
    Ever tried jogging and firing a long-barreled firearm at the same time? Try it. You’ll be lucky if you can hit the side of a barn.

  13. microraptor says

    silverhalide @14: And also that the girl who was out of the car and running managed to throw the rifle back into the car after being shot.

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    silvrhalide @14:

    Ever tried jogging and firing a long-barreled firearm at the same time?

    No, but I imagine it would be easier than firing a long-barreled firearm backwards at the cop cars chasing you, while you were driving a pickup truck. Supposedly, that’s what Graziano was doing during the chase.

  15. Rob Grigjanis says

    Ronald Couch @17: I don’t see anyone defending cops in this thread. Which people are you talking about, and what do you mean by “defending cops”?

  16. unclefrogy says

    until we have the recordings from the cameras we do nott know what happened we just have the statements from the police. We will probably never know what happened or why completely including what caused the murder of the mother and probably who actually did what nor why.
    we can see clearly that the cops are all shot first ask questions later how ever

  17. snarkhuntr says

    Rob @18,

    Police pursuits can often involve vehicles stopping and then resuming travel. I have a hard time imagining hitting anything with a long-gun while driving, but stopping and taking a couple shots and driving off again is absolutely doable.

    This will be a complicated case – and the police have incentives to make sure it reveals ‘facts’ that leave them in as positive a light as possible. Was the girl shot after leaving the car, unarmed, and running towards the police for safety? Was the girl shooting at the cops during the pursuit?

    The article though is full of the kind of passive voiced ‘exonerative tense’ that is only ever used in describing the actions of the police:

    “The sheriff described a firefight as deputies tried to contain Graziano’s truck, which ultimately stopped off road in Hesperia. Someone in tactical gear and a helmet then got out of the passenger side started to run toward the sheriff’s deputies as gunfire continued to be exchanged, he said.

    The person collapsed before reaching deputies, and authorities then identified Savannah Graziano. Dicus did not say if the shot that killed her was fired by her father or by deputies.”

    Even here you can see the police’s version of the narrative being uncritically adopted by the ‘reporter’. ‘Someone in tactical gear and a helmet’ is used, instead of the name of the child involved. In the event that this is needed, it will corroborate the officer’s attempts to explain gunning down an unarmed child “they were just someone in tactical gear and a helmet”

    “gunfire continued to be exchanged” as if nobody at all was pulling the trigger. It would not be entirely surprising if all the gunfire “exchanged” at this point was going in only one direction. Police don’t stop firing, quite often, till they run out of ammo. The girl could have been fleeing because she just saw her father shot to death in front of her, in a vehicle being ripped apart by taxpayer bullets, and then been executed outside by the police. Or perhaps she was already shot – there’s no way to know at this point.

    One thing you amercans have that I wish we did here is some (minimal) police public accountability/open records. There’s a good chance that the police’s bodyworn or vehiclemounted camera footage will be released. If this were a Canadian police shooting, all records would be sealed and held closely unless and until an actual criminal trial took place. We had a similar situation a couple years ago, where a father kidnapped his 1-year-old and went on the run. The Ontario Provincial Police tried to stop the car and ended up shooting it up after a crash, killing both occupants. Somehow this took two years to investigate, and now the SIU (police oversight unit) has laid some charges – they will discuss nothing at all about the case, and I fully expect that either the charges will be dropped after the media has another year or two to lose interest or the officers (if very guilty) will be allowed to plead down to some negligible charges. Whatever real evidence exists of what the police did and why they did it will simply not be released to the public.

  18. DanDare says

    Independant federal investigation group required for all potential police crimes.
    Rule 1 – no body cam means assumption the worst thing is what happened.

  19. John Morales says

    snarkhuntr @22, a lengthy and cogent account.

    I imagine Rob is no less aware of all that stuff than I am, or pretty much any other reader.

    However, your response does not address the substance of Rob’s #18.

    (It’s arguable whether it riffs off it)

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    snarkhuntr @22:

    One thing you amercans have…

    Torontonian here.

    Yeah, I’ve probably read the same stories you have. That the details of the incident all come from the police should give us pause, with grains of salt handy. But the stories also tell us there are videos, which presumably we will eventually see.

    But if we’re discussing the details we’ve heard, it’s fair to point out the difficulty of shooting a long-barreled gun backwards from the driver’s seat. Maybe the cops are lying about that (quite possible). Maybe he stopped the truck, fired the gun, and then drove off again (having difficulty with that).

  21. snarkhuntr says


    I should have been clearer: my ‘you americans’ was directed at the general population here at large.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out the difficutly of shooting any weapon backwards from a driver’s seat and being effective – but you are assuming that the effective shots were made this way, which is not actually said in any of the articles I read.

    People think police chase/pursuit and assume it means a subject car being followed by one (or more) officer cars, but it is often more dynamic than that. Officers may attempt to get ahead of the subject, or approach from a perpendicular road. Chases run at varying speeds, depending on the road/driving conditions, and can even come to a stop before resuming again.

    I also didn’t read anywhere that it was a long-barreled gun, just a ‘rifle’ which in the media could encompass both short-barreled carbines or bullpup firearms.

    But suppose the police’s insinuations are right: the kidnapping victim they were trying to rescue was armed by her father/abductor and told to shoot at the police. She is effective at the shooting and eventually a ‘firefight’ ensues. If you could get the police to answer, which you certainly could not, what would they tell you she’s supposed to do in this situation if she wants to surrender? Leave the weapon and get out of the vehicle, right? If you believe the law, the fact that she had been shooting at the police does not justify shooting her when she’s unarmed and poses no immediate threat to the officers.

    One of the things that I really hate about modern policing is their over-reliance on fear to expiate any bad actions they take. I know this personally, having been explicitly trained that I needed to express fear at all times because it would justify any public complaints about my own actions. I can remember troopmates expressing some revulsion at the idea, that it seemed cowardly, that it wasn’t even true (lots of adrenaline junkies in the cops), and being patiently taught by our firearms and hand-to-hand combat instructors that ‘articulating’ fear was often the only way to escape punishment (criminal or code of conduct) if we accidentally hurt someone without justification.

    I fully expect the officers here will eventually be claiming that it was their fear of the ‘person in tactical clothing’ that justified shooting the unarmed child, and that they will be exonerated. Just as the collective fear of nearly 400 officers prevented them from saving children from a single armed man. I am so glad I left this kind of work behind me. Police in north america have never been an honourable institution, but at least 20-30 years ago they hadn’t completely crushed the idea of bravery or personal sacrafice under a bureaucratic imperative to place their own perceived safety over any possible other values.

  22. Rob Grigjanis says


    but you are assuming that the effective shots were made this way

    I’m not assuming anything of the sort. I’m not even assuming there were shots fired backwards. The police claim there were, and the news stories reported that.

  23. seachange says

    @2 laurian

    Yes the Los Angeles Times article was fake news. I remember reading the whole passive voiced copaganda thing that was not at all in the paper’s usual style and thinking wow they’re gonna have to correct this one! They corrected it, but left most of the fakeness of the news intact below the correction, so the current article as it exists is a frankenstein’s monster where a lot of what is still written contradicts the “correction”. This editing-failure is typical of them, even when not talking about lying murdercops.

  24. says

    laurian @2

    A good rule of thumb when initial accounts come out regarding “officer involved shootings” is that they are false and the cops are lying.
    As the story unfolds, continue assuming the cops are lying.
    Don’t stop believing that the cops are lying until you see video confirming their video, because in the absence of video they will keep lying through their teeth.