The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office has taken the step of initiating an inquest into the death of Andres Guardado which hasn’t been done in nearly 30 years. The inquest was to provide more insight into the officer involved shooting that occurred on June 18 at a body shop in the unincorporated area of Gardena.
The purpose of the inquest is to provide the public with more clarity on the investigation by subpoenaing witnesses. The outcome of which can not be used in court by the Guardado family. Unfortunately, the public hasn’t learned anything new from today’s events.
Interestingly, the body shop owner, where the shooting occurred, has all but disappeared and will not be able to discuss claims made by the Sheriff’s department of the ongoing illegal activity occurring at the 420 W. Redondo Beach Blvd. location.
The Guardado family and the public have alleged that the Sheriff’s department has not been forthcoming with investigation results which is why the County Board of Supervisors requested the inquest.
“Similar to a death investigation, the objective of an inquest is to collect information that supports the cause and manner of death, but it is a public quasi-judicial inquiry where witnesses may be called and documents may be subpoenaed in order to inquire into the cause, manner, and circumstances of death,” said Sarah Ardalani, public information officer for the medical examiner’s office.
Law enforcement officers see this differently.
“This inquest is the perfect way to taint a potential jury by asking questions in a mock trail where the findings can’t be used by either party,” said a law enforcement official who refused to be identified for this article.
Despite the Guardado’s family attorney previously releasing their independent autopsy, with accompanying photos of the bullets that pierced his back, retired Judge Candace Cooper refused to allow the photos into the record describing them as “too gruesome” for the public to view.
Testimony by both coroner and Los Angeles County Fire Department officials, who arrived on scene, stated a gun was visible approximately 3-5 feet from the right side of Guardado’s body.
They were unable to determine how long before the shooting took place before they arrived nor where they able to determine if the gun was moved.
Four sheriff’s deputies, two of which were directly involved in the shooting of Guardado invoked their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination despite none of them being accused of a crime.
Deputies Miguel Vega and his partner Chris Hernandez, and two homicide detectives investigating the case, refused to answer questions regarding the events that led to the shooting.
Through the Sheriff’s department, a spokesman said each person made the decision on the advice of their legal counsel, not at the direction of Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Retired appellate justice Candace Cooper, who is presiding over the proceeding, said she is not certain that the four men’s Fifth Amendment assertions are acceptable in all instances, adding that she will consult with county counsel on the matter.
While saying she would “probably” accept Vega’s invocation of the Fifth, Cooper said she’s not sure that he can assert it “across the board.”
Cooper said Hernandez may have waived his right not to testify with the first declaration.
To “plead the Fifth” means you have the right not to answer police questions both while in custody or in court. The right against self-incrimination is spelled out in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and also extends to state and local jurisdictions.
The official autopsy report determined that the five gunshot wounds to Guardado’s back were fatal.
The inquest has been dismissed by Sheriff Villanueva as a “stunt” which will not change the outcome of determining the manner of Guardado’s death.
“The inquest supports the department’s mission and purpose to provide independent, evidence-based death investigations, address the public’s interest in the death, and is in accord with a motion approved by the Board of Supervisors on September 1, 2020,” said Ardalani.
The coroner’s office subpoenaed investigative documents from the Sheriff’s department which were provided to Cooper under seal.
Due to ongoing illegal activity at the body shop, the surveillance cameras did not capture any footage of the shooting and deputies have since been outfitted with body cameras that were deployed to various substations beginning in October.
The inquest will continue on December 1 inside the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room with a limited number of persons allowed inside.