Crime and Safety

California man, accused of killing his wife, abducted his teen daughter and lived in his truck for week before the fatal incident, police say

Authorities said Wednesday that a Southern California man accused of killing his estranged wife and abducting their 15-year-old daughter had been living with the girl in his pickup truck and hotels for weeks prior to the incident.

Tuesday, after a 45-mile pursuit, Anthony John Graziano and his daughter Savannah Graziano were slain in a gunfight with law officials on a roadway in the high desert east of Los Angeles. As the pickup truck was being pursued, it fired upon the officers with gunfire.

The daughter, wearing a tactical helmet and vest, exited the vehicle and went toward deputies in the midst of a hail of gunfire, according to police. Authorities are investigating whether she was shot by deputies, her father, or both.

The sole weapon recovered at the scene, according to police, was a rifle found in the truck where Anthony Graziano died. Authorities are analyzing a police camera recording of the incident.

Wednesday, the California Department of Justice announced an investigation into the shooting. A state statute that went into effect last year mandates that the department investigate every officer-involved shooting that results in the death of an unarmed person.

While many questions remain concerning Tuesday’s gunbattle, police in Fontana, where Tracy Martinez, Graziano’s wife, was killed on Monday, provided facts about the family’s existence prior to the violence.

Anthony Graziano had moved out of the family home a couple of months prior to the murder, as the couple was going through a divorce, according to Fontana Sgt. Christian Surgent. Savannah Graziano departed with her father, whereas her brother remained with their mother.

After Martinez’s murder, police issued an Amber Alert stating that Savannah Graziano had been abducted by her father. Now, detectives are attempting to discover if she was compelled to leave Fontana.

“Did she leave voluntarily?” Surgent stated. “Or was she in fact kidnapped? We have not yet been able to demonstrate that.”

Surgent stated that the Fontana police had not received any allegations of domestic violence at the residence prior to this week, nor had child services been involved with the family. Investigators suspect Savannah was home-schooled while living with her father, who cops said enjoyed camping in the desert and mountains in his pickup truck. Neither parent was on probation or parole at the time.

On Monday, witnesses observed Martinez wandering around Fontana prior to her pickup by Graziano. Surgent stated that it was unclear if she entered the van voluntarily or under duress.

“Immediately thereafter, they began bickering and shouting, and domestic violence ensued,” he added.

Surgent stated that as Martinez exited the vehicle, Graziano opened fire with a revolver, striking her many times. Students and parents were compelled to take cover as a result of a shooting near an elementary school during morning drop-off.

During the incident, police placed the school on temporary lockdown as a precaution, describing Graziano as “armed and dangerous.”

Surgent stated that Graziano bolted and drove to retrieve Savannah, who was likely wherever they were staying that day. The son was at home throughout the incident and was not involved.

The following day, a caller to 911 reported spotting the suspect’s Nissan Frontier in the vicinity of Barstow, some 70 miles (112 kilometers) north of Fontana.

The police discovered the pickup truck and pursued it to Hesperia on the freeway. Throughout the pursuit, Graziano “constantly fired back at the cops” with a rifle through the rear window of the truck, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Dicus stated that there were “some indications” that Savannah fired at deputies during the pursuit, but did not elaborate.

As dozens of bullets flew, a gunfight erupted in Hesperia when the truck veered off-road and somehow became immobilized. In the confusion, Savannah hurried toward the cops, who did not recognize her, and collapsed under the bullets. She was transported to a hospital, where soon before noon she was pronounced dead.

Her father was pronounced deceased at the scene after being discovered in the driver’s seat.

According to Dicus, CBS Los Angeles said at least one deputy was hurt during the shootout after being struck in the face by shrapnel.

Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Department declined to give additional details.

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