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This undated photo provided by the City of Fontana Police Department shows teen, Savannah Graziano. (City of Fontana Police Department via AP)
This undated photo provided by the City of Fontana Police Department shows teen, Savannah Graziano. (City of Fontana Police Department via AP)
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Law-enforcement professionals and those in the legal system in general at all levels from the federal Justice Department to local police agencies know even better than the rest of us that as often as not the bad guys’ undoing is in their attempts to cover up what they did.

That’s where the cops — or FBI, or states’ attorneys, or whomever — have a better chance to catch the crooks at their game.

Given what we can now see plainly was an 18-month cover-up by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department after the tragic shooting death at the hands of law enforcement of Savannah Graziano, a 15-year-old girl abducted by her father in September 2022 even as she followed a deputy’s instructions to walk toward them after a chase on Hesperia-area highways, what’s the reason for the almost criminal delay?

For a year and a half, journalists, led this time by incredibly intrepid independent investigator Joey Scott, have been trying to get the Sheriff’s Department to release the voluminous video and audio footage they knew the department had detailing every minute of the unfolding tragedy.

They blocked him at every turn.

As Scott wrote on Twitter a year ago, “For the fifth time, San Bernardino Sheriffs have delayed my records request for body camera and other recordings from their shooting of an abducted unarmed teenager and her father. They missed their March due date to fulfill by 10 days.”

That time, the department promised to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests by April 19, 2023. And then, they did not.

Scott began working with a senior investigative journalist at the British newspaper the Guardian. As the Guardian’s Sam Levin wrote on Twitter, the released information clarifies major falsehoods from the sheriff’s department: “Following the killing, Sheriff claimed: -Savannah may have been shot by her father. -deputies mistook her for her dad. -that she ‘ran’ at deputies. The footage, released 2 years later, cast doubts on those claims. And the sheriff now makes clear she was killed by deputy shots. … The CHP helicopter officer radioed: ‘Girl is out, the girl is out, guys. She’s out on the passenger side.’ The deputy closest to her said: ‘Come to me! Come, come, walk, walk..’ Gunfire continues as the deputy on the ground says: ‘Hey! Stop! Stop shooting her! He’s in the car!’”

It’s all an immeasurable tragedy for all concerned and a stain on the credibility of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The delay in releasing crucial information to the public and to Savannah’s family is not only not covering the Sheriff’s Department in glory. As with all cover-ups, it makes objective observers question the reasons for the clamp-down on the news.

San Bernardino County authorities, let’s do a better job in the future of communicating to the public through the journalists trying to do their own job if you’ve got problems accessing data.

And, bottom line, as Levin reports: “CJ Wyatt, Savannah’s uncle, told me: ‘There needs to be better training so that unarmed people aren’t killed. Hopefully this video can be used for training — something has to be done differently. She didn’t have to die.’”

According to the Police Scorecard, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department uses more force and deadly force per arrest than the average police department. More unarmed people are killed by the department per arrest as well. It’s imperative that county leaders better train deputies tasked with making life-and-death decisions.