Community mourning teen fatally shot by police after he pulled BB gun


Sunday’s gloomy weather seemed a fitting backdrop at Torrey Pines High School for the visitors who stopped by a growing memorial dedicated to the 15-year-old boy fatally shot by officers after he pointed a BB gun at them.

The boy’s mother released a statement to Fox 5 San Diego which read: “Our family is mourning the loss of a loving and wonderful young man. We ask that you respect our privacy as we remember him and all he meant to us.”

The teen was killed early Saturday after someone called 911 asking police to check on a boy at the Carmel Valley campus. Officers later determined the teen, a freshman at the school, had made the call himself.

The two officers who went at the school around 3:30 a.m. spotted the boy in a roundabout near the front of the school. As they got out of their patrol cars, he pulled a gun — later determined to be a BB air pistol — from the waistband of his pants and pointed it at one officer, said San Diego police Lt. Mike Holden.The teen ignored their commands to drop his gun and continued aiming at the officer while walking forward. Both officers fired. Holden said the shooting occurred within a minute of the officers arriving.

The teen, who lived nearby, has not been identified by police because he is a juvenile. Police said the boy was white.

On Sunday, students — often in one’s and two’s or accompanied by a parent — visited the makeshift memorial set up near the front of the school to leave bouquets of flowers and other mementos.

“May there be less suffering among our children,” one note said. “You mattered and will not be forgotten,” read another.

A classmate of the boy described him as a whiz with computers who shared his skills with his friends.

“He was intelligent, a nice kid — I wish I’d known him better,” said 15-year-old Garrett Younkin.

A handful of demonstrators also gathered at the school to protest the shooting. They carried signs saying “Give teens help, not a bullet” and “End police brutality.”

Olga Espinoza, the mother of three boys, said she was so disturbed by the shooting, she drove from San Ysidro to speak out against it.

“I don’t even know what to tell my kids now,” she said. “You can’t call 911 because who knows what’s going to happen to you? …Stop shooting our children.”

Other community members who visited the campus expressed support for police, especially the two involved in Saturday’s shooting.

Cathryn Brinton and her husband, Charles, stood arm-in-arm Sunday morning near where the shooting took place. They live in the neighborhood and have a 15-year-old daughter, and although she is not a student at the school, the death hit close to home.

While the couple hope the shooting is carefully reviewed and that other aspects of the boy’s life are considered, they never doubted the police’s commitment to “doing the very best for the people they serve,” Cathryn Brinton said.

“Their hearts are fully in it, and my heart goes out to them,” she said. “This isn’t something (the officers) would partake in lightly.”

Holden said investigators spoke with the teen’s family on Sunday and encouraged anyone who might have information that could aid the ongoing investigation to call police.

The officers involved turned on their body cameras at some point during the incident, so there is video to review. Investigators do not believe there is any nearby surveillance footage that captured the shooting, Holden said.

--Lyndsey Winkley is a writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune