Civil Rights Leader Areva Martin Intensifies Call for Justice in the Controversial Shooting of Autistic Teen, Challenges “Attempted Murder of a Peace Officer” Narrative

Los Angeles, California, March 28, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Areva Martin, a renowned civil rights attorney and fervent advocate for social justice, once again raises her voice in the wake of the tragic shooting of 15-year-old Ryan Gainer by a San Bernadino County sheriff’s deputy in Apple Valley, California. The Sheriff’s Department’s characterization of the incident as “Attempted Murder of a Peace Officer” in its media advisory demands examination.

“In our pursuit of truth and justice for Ryan Gainer, a young, autistic soul taken from us under circumstances that cry out for clarity and accountability, we are now confronted with a narrative that compounds our grief with profound concern. Labeling this heartbreaking incident as ‘Attempted Murder of a Peace Officer’ without a comprehensive and transparent review of the facts, including the critical role Ryan’s autism may have played in his interactions, is not only premature but potentially unjust. 

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“Ryan’s actions, driven by what was clearly a complex crisis situation, and the department’s response, both in the moment and in the aftermath, requires careful consideration. Instead, the department reflexively names their own deputy as a victim of Ryan’s alleged criminal behavior. This blatantly one-sided narrative risks overshadowing the essential questions about the appropriateness of the force used and the urgent need for law enforcement to adopt more effective de-escalation techniques, especially when engaging with individuals with disabilities or mental health challenges.

“We reiterate our call for the full and immediate release of all body-camera footage and other evidence pertinent to the incident. Transparency is the bedrock of trust and accountability, and anything less undermines both the pursuit of justice and the broader imperative to foster a law enforcement culture that prioritizes the preservation of life, particularly in its dealings with our community’s most vulnerable.

“We stand with Ryan’s family and all who seek not just answers but action. We call for a reevaluation of policies and training protocols to ensure that law enforcement officers are equipped to handle similar situations with empathy, understanding, and restraint. It is imperative that we work together to create a system that genuinely serves and protects all members of society, with no exceptions.

“Our commitment to Ryan’s memory and to the countless others affected by similar tragedies is unwavering. We will continue to demand accountability, push for meaningful reforms, and advocate for a future where such tragedies are not only condemned but prevented.

“We invite the community, officials, and all who believe in justice to join us in this critical dialogue and in our ongoing efforts to seek justice for Ryan. Together, we can turn our collective outrage into action and ensure that Ryan’s legacy is one of lasting change.

“Furthermore, we invite you to join us at a pivotal event that will address these critical issues head-on: the “Together Town Hall: Autism, Mental Health, and Policing,” planned as part of the Eighteenth Annual Tools 4 Transformation Conference. Moderated by myself, this panel will feature a diverse group of experts, advocates, and community leaders dedicated to demanding change and ensuring safety and accountability in law enforcement responses to autism and mental health crises. The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 13, from 9 AM to 10:30 AM at California State University, Dominguez Hills in the Innovation & Instruction Building.

“This is an invaluable opportunity for us to come together as a community to seek solutions, support, and prevention strategies for the future.”

Register for the Town Hall event online today at https://TFT18.eventbrite.com to secure your place. The event is free, thanks to the DDS CORE Workforce Development Grant, empowering parents and community members to make a significant impact.

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Special Needs Network, Inc. is a nonprofit grassroots 501(c)(3) organization responding to the crisis of autism and other developmental disabilities in underserved communities. We recognize the intersectionality of individuals with disabilities and that their fight for disability rights is inextricably tied to the fight for racial justice and the civil rights of all people. For more information, visit www.snnla.org. 

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