Disability Rights California Calls for Change and Accountability Following Police Shooting of Teen with Disability

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Disability Rights California Calls for Change and Accountability Following Police Shooting of Teen with Disability

As an organization that protects and advances the rights of people with disabilities, Disability Rights California (DRC) is disturbed by the violence against Ryan Gainer, a 15-year-old Black autistic teenager. DRC vehemently condemns racism, ableism, and police brutality. 

On March 9, 2024, two San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Ryan at his home in front of his family. Sadly, this incident will now be included in a long list of Black people with disabilities killed by the police, like Tanisha Anderson, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, and Sandra Bland. According to the Urban Institute, police shootings kill Black people at twice the rate of white people, one-third to half of police use-of-force incidents involve a person with a disability, and 50 percent of people killed by police have a disability. 

“Disability Rights California condemns this terrible act of violence by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s department against Ryan Gainer and his family.  Disabled people and their families, in California and across the country, fear interactions with law enforcement and the violence those interactions often lead to. DRC will continue to advocate for increased access to community-based care and decrease interactions with law enforcement that will keep disabled people safe,” says DRC Director of Public Policy Eric Harris.

DRC condemns this assault and calls for change and accountability. There is a legacy of racism and ableism that this country and state must address. This violence is perpetuated by a law enforcement system that routinely dehumanizes people and justifies brutality. Those called to protect and serve, instead bring trauma, harm, and fatal violence. 

Training for law enforcement personnel is not enough. Studies have shown that providing crisis response training to law enforcement has not meaningfully improved outcomes of arrest or officer use of force. We need alternatives to law enforcement, including mobile crisis response teams that are staffed by mental health professionals and peers and that are dispatched to resolve crises without violence or coercion. 

We call for an intersectional approach to changing law enforcement that includes and is led by people with disabilities, especially those that experience multiple forms of marginalization. 

We must pursue changes that:

  • Prevent people with disabilities from coming into contact with law enforcement.
  • Divert funds from law enforcement to community-based programs and services. 
  • Decrease the power of institutions that routinely harm people with disabilities and marginalized groups. 

Ryan Gainer should be alive. We stand and grieve with the Gainer family and their demand for justice. 

Media Contacts

Eric Harris
Director of Public Policy
Disability Rights California
(916) 504-5940

Aisha Novasky
Senior Attorney
Disability Rights California 
(213) 213-8092


Disability Rights California (DRC) – Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of drc is to defend, advance, and strengthen the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. For more information visit: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org.