LOS ANGELES — An 18-year-old man was shot in the back five times and killed last month by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who, nearly three weeks later, still has not been interviewed by investigators, the family’s lawyer and authorities said Wednesday.
Andres Guardado, who friends and relatives said worked as a security guard at an auto body shop while he learned to be a mechanic, was shot June 18 near the city of Gardena. The state attorney general’s office is monitoring the investigation, and the FBI has been briefed on the details.
Guardado’s family commissioned an independent autopsy after the sheriff’s department put a “security hold” on coroner’s records. Attorney Adam Shea called for release of the official autopsy in a statement Wednesday and released a black-and-white photo showing bullet holes in Guardado’s back.
“Andres was a good boy, he was our son and he had so much life ahead of him. Our son did not deserve to die this way,” parents Cristobal and Elisa Guardado said in the statement.
Two deputies were involved in the incident: Miguel Vega and Chris Hernandez. Vega fired his gun, while Hernandez did not. Both were identified by their attorneys Wednesday, and they remain employed by the sheriff’s department.
Vega’s attorney, Adam Marangell, said his client is cooperating with investigators and is scheduled to be interviewed Monday. Hernandez’s lawyer, Tom Yu, said he was interviewed last week.
The Attorneys Said Their Clients’ Actions Were Justifiable
Cmdr. Chris Marks said Wednesday at a news conference that detectives cannot force deputies to speak to them. He said while it’s more common for deputies involved in shootings to participate in an interview within days of the incident, they are allowed to assert their right against self-incrimination.
The attorneys said their clients’ actions were justifiable. Marangell said in a statement that the findings of the independent autopsy “do not alter in any way the ultimate fact that Deputy Vega acted properly and lawfully.”
Marangell’s statement offered the most details yet to be released publicly, though authorities have not corroborated them.
Marangell said the deputies saw Guardado with a gun in his front waistband, and he ran away from them down a driveway. Vega allegedly told Guardado to stop multiple times as he pulled the gun from his waistband and kept running.
Guardado then stopped, turned around, and raised both hands in the air while still holding the gun, Marangell said. He followed the deputies’ orders to put the gun on the ground and lay face-down.
The lawyer said the gun was still close to Guardado’s right hand. Vega holstered his own firearm and told Guardado “don’t reach for the gun” as he went to handcuff him.
Suddenly, Guardado allegedly “clearly and unmistakably” tried to grab his gun on the ground, the attorney said. “At this point Deputy Vega had no choice but to redraw his weapon and fire in self-defense.”
Security cameras in the area did not capture the shooting, Marks said, and deputies do not have body-worn cameras.
Department Said Guardado Saw the Deputies and Ran, Leading to a Chase
In addition to the five shots in his back, Guardado also a had graze wound to his left forearm, according to the July 26 independent autopsy. Preliminary toxicology testing showed the teen did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system, the report said.
Authorities have only said deputies saw Guardado talking to someone in a car blocking a driveway and that Guardado had a loaded gun that appeared to have been pieced together from different parts, lacked a serial number and had an illegal high-capacity magazine.
Department officials previously have said only that Guardado saw the deputies and ran, leading to a chase. They said the deputy fired at Guardado, who was struck in the torso and died at the scene. The department’s account has not offered any further details of how and why the shooting occurred. Investigators have said they don’t believe Guardado fired at deputies.
Yu said Hernandez feared for his safety during the chase. But the lawyer did not have details about what sparked the pursuit.
“It was a very unfortunate incident,” Yu said, adding that Hernandez is “very sorry” for Guardado’s death.
Authorities are keeping a “security hold” on the official autopsy report until the deputy has been interviewed, Marks said.
The sheriff’s department has said Guardado was too young to be licensed as a guard and wasn’t wearing a uniform.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors late last month called for oversight of the investigation by the county’s inspector general. The board also asked its counsel to report on alternative plans for an independent probe.