A police chase and subsequent shootout on Tuesday led to the deaths of a 15-year-old girl and her father, who was suspected of murdering his estranged wife, the teen’s mother, authorities said.
San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus announced the deaths in a news conference Tuesday and said Savannah Graziano, who had been abducted the day before, ran towards police during a gunfight after her father’s truck was run off the highway by patrol cars.
Dicus said Savannah was wearing tactical gear and a helmet and that police did not initially realize it was a 15-year-old girl who was running towards them. Authorities did not specify if Savannah was shot by police or her father.
The tragic saga began when Savannah’s father Anthony John Graziano, 45, allegedly shot and killed his wife Tracy Martinez on Monday near a Fontana, Calif. elementary school, triggering panic among nearby schoolchildren and parents.
“The man just came down the street shooting. He started shooting in that direction,” neighbourhood resident Andy Davis told ABC7. “Hit those trees, houses across the street. They say the bullets were skipping off the street, and the woman was trying to run for her life, and unfortunately she was hit. Once she was hit I guess he shot at her a few more times.”
Martinez was rushed to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Family members told investigators that Graziano and Martinez had been going through a divorce.
Savannah was already believed to be with her father at the time of her mother’s murder and police issued an Amber Alert for her after Graziano fled the scene of the shooting. He was described as armed and dangerous.
A 911 caller reported seeing the suspect’s Nissan Frontier around Barstow on Tuesday, according to Dicus. Deputies located the pickup truck and chased it on the highway for around 70 kilometres.
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Throughout the chase, Graziano — and potentially his daughter as well — was “constantly shooting back at the deputies” through the truck’s rear window, Dicus said.
The shooter put several rounds through a patrol car’s windshield and later disabled a second pursuing vehicle, the sheriff said.
“There may be some information that the passenger was involved in firing back at the deputies and we’re still trying to confirm that at this point,” Dicus said.
The pickup truck became disabled on the shoulder of a highway in the city of Hesperia, and the firefight ensued.
Dicus said Savannah was wearing tactical gear as she exited the truck’s passenger side and ran toward the sheriff’s deputies. She fell to the ground amid the gunfire.
Because Savannah was wearing a helmet and military-style vest, Dicus said the deputies did not know who was running towards them.
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Savannah 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.
Police only found one weapon, a rifle, in the truck. One deputy was injured by shrapnel during the firefight.
— With files from The Associated Press