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It Took Nearly Three Years for a Sheriff’s Deputy to Get Charged With Manslaughter After Killing Ryan Twyman

Photo by Brian Feinzimer for L.A. TACO

More than two and half years after killing 24-year-old Ryan Twyman, Andrew Lyons, a former L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy (LASD) was charged with manslaughter last week.

Video surveillance footage of the shooting shows Ryan and a friend sitting in a parked car at an apartment complex in Willowbrook when two deputies, Andrew Lyons and Christopher Muse, roll up on them. After Muse opens the passenger side of the vehicle, Twyman throws the car in reverse, at which point the deputies open fire, as the car slowly moves in reverse. Lyons then retrieves a semi-automatic assault rifle from his patrol car before opening fire on the vehicle, after it comes to a stop. In total more than 30 bullets were fired at the vehicle, miraculously the passenger was not hit.

LASD policy generally prohibits deputies from firing at moving vehicles unless someone in the vehicle is ““imminently threatening a department member or another person present with deadly force by means other than the moving vehicle.”

In a statement released last week, the district attorney’s office said “Lyons is accused of retrieving his semiautomatic assault rifle and shooting into the vehicle after it stopped moving. Christopher Muse, the other deputy that shot at Ryan and his passenger, was not charged. 

In addition to one count of voluntary manslaughter, Lyons is also facing two counts of assault with a semi-automatic weapon.

The news came as a surprise to Ryan's family, who have been fighting for justice for him since he was killed in 2019, according to a statement provided by their attorney. Nationally, law enforcement officers rarely face charges for shooting civilians. Despite hundreds of shootings over the years, in Los Angeles County, only three law enforcement officers (other than Lyons) have faced manslaughter or murder charges in more than two decades.

“The family is surprised and overjoyed,” a statement from the Cochran Firm reads. “They had resigned themselves to the belief that once again the criminal justice system would not be there to honor their son’s life.” 

Reached via text message just hours after the news broke last week, Ryan’s mother, Tommy Twyman was ecstatic but also acknowledged that the road to justice is long. “It’s not justice, but it’s a step towards justice,” Tommy told L.A. TACO when asked if she’s satisfied with the manslaughter charge against Lyons.

The criminal charges against Lyons come less than two months after an L.A. TACO investigation brought previous allegations of misconduct against the former deputy back to light. In 2013, a jury found that Lyons and a group of deputies known as an “extraction team” violated the civil rights of a detainee at Men’s Central Jail who was severely beaten and briefly lapsed into a coma. According to Cerise Castles’ reporting on deputy gangs for Knock-LA, Lyons is listed in a county document of deputy gang-related lawsuits. In 2019, Lyons was fired from the department.

When asked if Lyon’s history of misconduct factored into the decision to charge him with manslaughter and assault, a spokesperson for Gascón declined to comment last week.

Just two months ago, Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva criticized Gascón for taking years to make a decision on cases like Ryan’s. During a press conference in early January, Villanueva said his department presented the Twyman case to the DA by the end of 2019, the year that he was killed.

Last summer during an interview with L.A. TACO, Ryan’s mom Tommy, expressed frustrations over the lack of transparency from Gascón’s office and their empty promises. Gascón, a former LAPD officer and San Francisco DA, built his progressive campaign partially on the notion that he would be tougher on cops, particularly when it comes to fatal shootings of civilians.

The progressive DA is currently facing another recall effort as well as backlash from both supports and critics due to a sexual assault case he admits he mishandled. Since taking office, Gascón has filed charges against three law enforcement officers, including Lyons.

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