Four Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials are refusing to testify in the coroner’s inquest into the deputy shooting death of Andres Guardado, invoking their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination even though none of them have been accused of a crime.
Deputies Miguel Vega, who opened fire, and his partner Chris Hernandez, as well as two homicide detectives investigating the case, have indicated they would not answer questions about what led up to the shooting of the 18-year-old Guardado, who was shot five times in the back and killed in an incident that generated weeks of large protests.
A Sheriff’s Department spokesman said each person made the decision on the advice of his legal counsel, not at the direction of Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Legal experts said the move shows a refusal by the Sheriff’s Department to cooperate in a proceeding that Villanueva dismissed in a radio interview earlier this month as a circus stunt.
“I think you can take it for what it is: No one is volunteering from that sheriff’s office to cooperate in that inquiry,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, who was not surprised by the move. “It was clearly coordinated. It was clearly designed to protect them, and to make it more difficult to make findings that could be used against them or others.”
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