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Investigative Report

LA County Sheriff’s Deputies Shot At Her Son 34 Times, It Took Two Years For Them To Confirm Who Killed Him

Photo by Brian Feinzimer for L.A. TACO

After 24-year-old Ryan Twyman was killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies in June of 2019, his family and friends organized vigils and marches in his name, attended civilian oversight committee meetings, and had one-on-one conversations with the district attorney’s office to seek justice. But for nearly two years, they remained in the dark about the identities of the two sheriff's deputies that shot at Ryan more than 30 times while he sat in a car unarmed with a friend.

After repeated requests demanding that authorities turn over the names went nowhere, in the weeks following Ryan’s death, during a Civilian Oversight Committee meeting in 2019, things changed when a commissioner met one of Ryan’s sisters outside of a meeting and privately revealed the names of the deputies that allegedly killed her brother. “Christopher Muse and Andrew Lyons,” the commissioner told Ryan’s sister.

In the months following, Ryan’s family desperately tried to confirm the accuracy of the names they received.

They sought help from the Cochran Firm — the renowned law firm founded by OJ Simpson defense attorney Johnny Cochran. They even tried to dig up information online about the deputies themselves while also mourning the loss of a loved one.

But they always came up short.

The Cochran Firm helped Ryan’s children, and the passenger in the vehicle, who miraculously walked away from the scene after over 30 rounds were fired at him, secure a $3.9 million payout. But they never confirmed the names of the deputies. “We asked the attorney…can you confirm for us if these are the correct names or not. [But] they didn't," Ryan's mother, Tommy, told L.A.TACO last summer. And the family never found anything on their own. 

Then in late May of last year, L.A. County Sheriff Villanueva announced that the department would identify deputies 30 days after a shooting moving forward, following an LA Times investigation that found the department was an “outlier” among some of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state when it comes to releasing the names of deputies that shoot civilians.

Up until then, the sheriff’s department typically defied state orders that generally require law enforcement agencies to promptly identify officers after shootings. Practically overnight, the names of dozens of deputies that shot or killed civilians were released for the first time. 

Family and friends gather at Ryan's gravesite at Rose Hills Mortuary in Whittier, CA on May 23, 2021 (Brian Feinzimer)

Days after the policy change, on her son's 26th birthday, nearly two years after he was killed, Tommy received confirmation that the names that the family received previously were the names of the deputies that killed her only son.

“It’s so discouraging to think like, did they ever stop working?” During an interview with L.A. TACO last July, Tommy said about a month after Ryan’s birthday. “Are they still working? And do they come to our house? Is that the officers that come to our house?”

Since her son was killed, Tommy and other family members say deputies have harassed them. And they’re not alone. Many families who have lost loved ones to law enforcement violence have said they’ve faced similar harassment.

“I mean, on his birthday this year, they came parked outside and just sat out there,” Tommy said. At times, she wonders if she’s ever crossed paths with the deputies that killed her son. “We have no idea what these officers look like, you know, we don't know if these guys want to retaliate because we're fighting for justice for what they did.”

Family and friends gather at Rose Hills Mortuary in Whittier, CA on May 23, 2021. (Brian Feinzimer)

Identifying deputies by name can also help determine if officers fired their guns at anyone before or have been the subject of lawsuits, misconduct complaints, or are associated with deputy gangs.

“We want to know their background just like they know ours, and they know what we look…we want to get justice from the correct guys,” Tommy told L.A. TACO last summer.

Before being elected, District Attorney George Gascón promised to be tougher on police officers that shoot people and identified Ryan’s case as one of five cases he has “concerns with” in a September 2020 memo. Then as a newly elected district attorney, Gascón ordered law enforcement agencies under his jurisdiction to report instances of misconduct to his office. As of publishing, Ryan’s case is still under review.

New reporting from L.A. TACO reveals that the two deputies that killed Ryan Twyman, match the names of deputies listed as defendants in civil cases alleging various misconduct. Attorneys for the deputies listed in the lawsuits did not respond to requests for comment.

Andrew Lyons was listed as a defendant in a notable lawsuit accusing more than two dozen deputies of using excessive force during a protest at Men’s Central Jail in 2008.

Graphic video footage presented as evidence in the case shows deputies using concussion grenades, tasers, and severely beating incarcerated men in Men's Central Jail’s infamous 3,000 wings, while the men plead for mercy during a prison “extraction” (when jail residents are forcibly removed from their cells). The melee lasted approximately six hours and resulted in multiple fractured limbs, a fractured skull, and at least eight people hospitalized.

The victims, some of whom filed a lawsuit, admitted to staging a protest in response to a previous beating at deputies’ hands, starting small fires, and throwing pieces of porcelain sinks at deputies.

According to the lawsuit, while an incarcerated person named Heriberto Rodriguez lay on the floor with a mattress over himself for protection, deputies allegedly fired projectiles at his ankles before entering his cell and kicking him. At the same time, he laid in a prone position on the floor.

Later, a deputy allegedly tied a shirt around Rodriguez's neck and began choking him until he fell unconscious. After that, Rodriguez was “literally shocked back to consciousness” with a taser until its full charge was extinguished, according to the complaint. Then deputies allegedly used a fully charged taser to shock Rodriguez in the testicles, buttocks, and armpits before clubbing him over the head with a flashlight. The beating reportedly resulted in Rodriguez fracturing a “tablespoon-sized piece of his skull.”

Andrew Lyons deposition video stemming from Men's Central Jail lawsuit.
Footage from Andrew Lyons deposition stemming from Men's Central Jail lawsuit.

The “extraction team” that Lyons was part of was accused of firing rubber bullets at a man named Carlos Flores and then taking turns beating him until he lost consciousness, according to media reports and court documents reviewed by L.A. TACO. “[Flores] regained consciousness when he was shocked awake by a taser. [Flores] was then repeatedly beaten until he again lost consciousness,” a complaint against the deputies reads. “His next memory was waking up in an emergency room.”

According to court documents, in 2013, seven out of 10 deputies—including Lyons—were convicted of violating Flores’ fourth and eighth amendment civil rights. The case led to a multimillion-dollar settlement for the five plaintiffs and paved the way for sweeping reforms at the jail. Last year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to begin the process of closing the troubled facility. The sheriff’s department justified the use of force seen in the video footage at the time, saying, “inmates involved in this incident were some of the most dangerous and violent criminals housed in the high-security section of our jails.”

Andrew Lyons speaks during ALADS October 2017 candidate forum.
Andrew Lyons speaks during ALADS October 2017 candidate forum.

In 2017 Lyons ran for a position on the ALADS board, the union that represents deputies and district attorney investigators. Lyons' candidate statement states that he began working as a deputy sheriff in 2006. In a November 2017 candidate forum, Lyons said that he worked at Men’s Central Jail for almost seven years before he was reassigned to Century Station in 2012, the same deputy station associated with the Ryan Twyman killing. During the forum, he took issue with how the jails were run. “Deputies aren't able to run the jails like they used to,” Lyons said.

Deputy Muse, the other deputy that opened fire on Twyman in 2019, was listed as a defendant in a 2016 civil rights complaint alleging various prison abuses at Twin Towers, another L.A. jail facility. A hand-written complaint reviewed by L.A. TACO regarding the case was not legible enough to determine the facts of the allegations, and the case was ultimately dismissed in 2019 because the court was unable to reach the plaintiff.

In another lawsuit, Muse is accused of injuring someone while chasing down a vehicle that reportedly fled during a traffic stop. The lawsuit was settled for more than $60,000, according to a Los Angeles County Claims Board agenda from February 2019. Court and county documents note that Muse was assigned to Century Station at the time.

On June 6, 2019, Lyons and Muse arrived at a parking lot at an apartment complex near 132nd Street and San Pedro in Willowbrook. The two Century Station deputies got out of their patrol car with their pistols drawn and approached Ryan, who was wanted for a felony weapons charge, and a friend who were both seated in a white Kia Forte. Muse opens the rear passenger side door.

Moments later, the Kia, driven by Twyman, accelerates slowly in reverse. Lyons and Muse both fire at Twyman multiple times. The car continues to creep backward before coming to a halt slowly. Lyons rushes back to the patrol car and retrieves an assault rifle, and he takes cover behind a pickup truck and continues firing. In total, the deputies fired more than 30 rounds at the Kia sedan, killing Twyman. Miraculously, the passenger isn’t hit.

No weapons were found at the scene.

‘Why?’

When presented with these new findings last summer, Ryan’s mother was stunned. “Wow, wow…okay,” Tommy said before taking several deep breaths while trying to organize her thoughts. All of this information—aside from the events that occurred on the day Ryan was killed—was unknown to her at the time.

More than two years after Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies murdered her son, Tommy still wonders: Why?

“Why did it have to get to that extent,” Tommy asked. “Why didn’t you guys follow protocol?”

Shooting at a moving vehicle is generally barred under LASD policy unless there is a deadly weapon present other than the vehicle. “Why,” Tommy asks repeatedly. It’s a question she’s asked herself countless times but still hasn’t arrived at an answer.

Another question weighing heavily on her mind is: What happened to the deputies that killed her son? Did they get fired? Are they still working for the department, she wonders?

During a meeting last summer with District Attorney George Gascón, Tommy and her family asked the newly elected DA the same questions they’d had for years. “He was like, he’s going to try to do this and that, but if we have any concerns, email his assistant, that was all I got out of the conversation, was email his assistant. So there's still no answer to me as to when are you going to investigate or when something is going to happen, there’s still no definite answer, there’s still no progress, there’s still nothing.”

A spokesperson for Gascón, Greg Risling, told L.A. TACO last year when we began looking into court documents, the case is still under review. He declined to comment on the lawsuits that we uncovered.

Similarly, the sheriff’s department declined to confirm if the deputies listed in the lawsuits were the deputies that fired at Ryan Twyman.

On January 19, two and half years after Ryan was killed, Sheriff Villanueva revealed during a press conference that one of the deputies that killed Ryan was consequently fired. The other deputy received a 30-day suspension. The sheriff’s department declined to confirm which deputy was terminated and which one was suspended. According to the sheriff, LASD is still waiting on Gascón’s office to decide on filing charges in dozens of cases dating back a half-decade. 

“My problem is, I have a district attorney who is not living up to his end of the bargain,” Villanueva claimed during Wednesday’s press conference. According to Villanueva, the sheriff’s department presented their case to the DA’s office “at the end of 2019.”

Ryan Twyman’s son Ryan Jr. looks at his father’s gravesite at Rose Hills Mortuary in Whittier, CA on May 23, 2019. (Brian Feinzimer)
Ryan Twyman’s son Ryan Jr. looks at his father’s gravesite at Rose Hills Mortuary in Whittier, CA on May 23, 2021. (Brian Feinzimer)

“These things can be resolved in 90 days in each case. The problem is the district attorney is playing politics with the cases and withholding them.” Villanueva says the slow process leaves “two parties on hold.” The deputies facing potential criminal charges as well as the families of victims.

When asked to respond to Villanueva’s assertions, Alex Bastian, Special Advisor to District Attorney George Gascón, told L.A. TACO in a statement: “Police accountability is a top priority for this District Attorney. He is working to restore the public’s faith in the criminal legal system by holding law enforcement officers who violate the law accountable for their crimes.”

According to Bastian, in his first year in office, Gascón filed criminal charges against more than 20 law enforcement officers from seven agencies, “including five sheriff’s deputies, for on-the-job offenses.” Only one officer, a Torrance Police Department officer, was charged with a crime for shooting someone.

“We take these cases very seriously and conduct a complete and thorough review as expeditiously as possible, based on the totality of the evidence,” Bastian concluded.

Wednesday’s announcement once again catches Tommy off guard. When asked how she feels, she replies: “emotional.” She wasn’t aware that the deputies responsible for killing her son had been disciplined, and she says she hasn’t had a conversation with Gascón’s office since the meeting over the summer. “Everybody’s been pretty quiet with me,” Tommy says.

After years of waiting and wondering, she’s finally received some answers. But she’s still not completely satisfied. “I want to know if it’s really true that he got fired, and I want Gascón to get them prosecuted,” Tommy says.

“I feel good about it.”

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