LOS ANGELES — Family members of Andres Guardado and community activists are calling for the resignation of L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva for what they are calling a “cover up” in the death of the 18 year old who was shot to death by a sheriff’s deputy June 18 in an unincorporated area between Compton and Gardena.
The call was issued July 8 after an independent autopsy on Guardado’s body showed that he was shot in the back five times.
Guardado was working as a security guard at an auto body shop when sheriff’s deputies in an unmarked vehicle made contact with him.
Deputies have said they saw Guardado had a gun that was allegedly pointed at them, and from there little is known due to a lack of video footage of the fatal encounter. A gun was recovered at the scene.
The owner of the property has yet to be identified. However, a man who was said to be the auto shop manager said sheriff’s investigators took away surveillance cameras that did not contain footage.
Deputies say the surveillance equipment was obtained through a search warrant.
The shooting location was the scene of a previous investigation due to a shooting that took place at the shop a couple of weeks prior. Investigators found a trail of blood leading either to or from the location and a subsequent search of the property yielded the discovery of a shotgun and drugs.
After the shooting, a war of words was exchanged between Villanueva and county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas over the lack of funding for body cameras for the deputies.
Activist Najee Ali said he met with Villanueva the week prior to the Guardado shooting and the sheriff stated his office would be transparent in future investigations of officer-involved shootings.
But after the death of Guardado, the Sheriff’s Department placed a security hold on the official autopsy report, which prompted protests and outrage from the community.
“Villanueva tried to cover up the murder of Guardado, who was shot several times in the back,” Ali said July 8. “Sheriff Villanueva needs to resign.”
The Guardado family is represented by the law offices of Panish, Shea & Boyle. Attorneys Adam Shea, Spencer Lucas, Ryan Casey and Nicholas Yoka released the family’s independent autopsy results along with graphic photos of Guardado’s back.
“It has been 20 days since Andres was tragically gunned down by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy,” Yoka said. “We are once again imploring the Sheriff’s Department to step forward, release the medical examiner’s autopsy report and do the right thing by this family.”
Earlier reports indicate there are two witnesses to the shooting.
Guardado was speaking to two women, who were parked directly in front of the auto body shop when the shooting took place.
Neither the Sheriff’s Department nor Guardado’s attorney have yet to publicly identify the women and/or confirm whether they are cooperating with the investigation.
Deputy Miguel Vega, the deputy who allegedly shot Guardado, has yet to be questioned about the incident.
“Deputy Vega needs to be prosecuted for murder by District Attorney Jackie Lacey,” Ali said.
Lacey has yet to pursue a criminal conviction in any officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of a Los Angeles County resident during her seven and a half years as district attorney.
Villanueva has said he cannot offer an opinion on the Guardado shooting until the homicide investigation is completed.
But Cmdr. Chris Marks, who oversees the sheriff’s Detective Division Headquarters, offered more details about that investigation at an afternoon news briefing July 8, saying that of the two deputies involved in the shooting, the one who didn’t fire a weapon has been interviewed by investigators.
He added that officials are still hoping that Vega, who the department still hasn’t officially identified as the shooter, would issue a voluntary statement.
“This is a criminal investigation, so all persons that are going to be interviewed are entitled to the Fifth Amendment, and deputies are no exception to this, so they provide a voluntary statement,” Marks said. “We’re not in an administrative investigation at this time, so we cannot compel the statement. We’re relying on that deputy to provide a voluntary statement.”
“We’re on his timetable, to answer you bluntly,” Marks said in answer to reporter’s question.
Marks said the deputy who shot Guardado is scheduled to be interviewed within a week, and an administrative investigation would begin as soon as the criminal probe is wrapped up.
Guardado’s parents, Ciristobal and Elisa Guardado, released the following statement via their law firm:
“These findings confirm what we have known all along, which is that Andres was unjustifiably killed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy. 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. We understand that there is still a long way to go, but we are going to continue to keep fighting for justice for Andres. We want to ensure that other families do not have to suffer as we have,” the statement continued.
“We ask that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department release their security hold on the autopsy report and all other evidence they have. We want answers.”
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson and other civil rights leaders announced their intention to file a formal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division over the shooting death.