From: Courthouse News
By: Edvard Pettersson, 2/10/2023
A former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy will go on trial for the fatal on-duty shooting of an unarmed 24-year-old man in 2019.
Andrew Lyons, 38, will be just the second officer to stand trial in LA County for an on-duty shooting in the past 20 years, according to a statement Friday by District Attorney George Gascón.
Lyons was charged last year with one count of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm in the fatal shooting of Ryan Twyman. At a hearing Friday, he waived his right to a preliminary hearing, which would normally be held to determine if the prosecution has enough evidence to bring a case to trial.
“I am obviously very encouraged by the outcome of today’s proceeding,” Gascón said in the statement. “This has been a very long painful journey for the Twyman family. They have waited far too long for some semblance of justice. I know we are not quite there yet but we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Under Gascón, the DA's office has filed more officer-involved shooting cases against officers who were on duty than under the two previous DAs combined, according to the statement. Gascón's reform-minded agenda has made him a lightning rod for criticism by more conservative voices in law enforcement since he took office in December of 2020 and led to an unsuccessful recall campaign in 2022.
Even with the more widespread outcry over killings of unarmed suspects by police since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, it may still be a difficult hurdle to get a jury to convict an officer for a fatal shooting. In 2021, a jury acquitted Luke Liu, the first officer to go on trial in more than two decades in LA County for an on-duty shooting, of voluntary manslaughter of an unarmed driver at a gas station.
Lyons was charged in the June 6, 2019, shooting of Twyman as he tried to drive away when Lyons and another deputy approached his car in a parking lot of an apartment building. According to an incident briefing by the LA County Sheriff's Department after the shooting, the officers were looking for Twyman, a convicted felon on probation, after county detectives found firearms he wasn't allowed to possess during a search of his apartment.
When one of the deputies opened the passenger-side rear door of Twyman's car, Twyman put the car in reverse and pulled out of the parking space. The two deputies first opened fire with their handguns, but Lyons then got an assault rifle out of the trunk of their patrol car and start shooting with that after Twyman's car had already stopped moving.
Twyman died on the scene. LA County settled his family's wrongful death lawsuit in 2020 for $3.9 million.
Nicole Castronovo, Lyons' attorney, said in a telephone interview that the judge had put her client in a position where he had no choice but to waive his right to a preliminary hearing because his request for potentially exculpatory evidence from the prosecution was denied.
The evidence in question are notes from a prosecution interview of the medical examiner about the cause of Twyman's death, according to Castronovo. Since two officers fired on Twyman and only Lyons was charged with manslaughter, it would be crucial to know if Lyons or the other officer fired the fatal rounds, she said.
"The cause of death is the issue in this case," Castronovo said.
If the bullets from Lyons' gun struck Twyman after he was already dead, he can't be charged with manslaughter, according to the attorney.