The family of Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old shot five times in back by a deputy, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the county, alleging deputies used excessive force when they killed the young man, attorneys announced Tuesday.
The complaint alleges the deputies who chased Guardado down an alley before one fatally shot him near Gardena on June 18 were “possibly acting in connection and in agreement with” gangs within the Sheriff’s Department, known as the “Executioners” or “the 3,000 Boys.”
The family’s attorneys claim the deputies “had possible affiliations” with the gang. KTLA has reached out to the Sheriff’s Department for comment on the allegations and the lawsuit.
The two deputies involved, Miguel Vega and Chris Hernandez, worked for the Compton sheriff’s station, where the Executioners — a group of deputies with matching tattoos of a skull with Nazi imagery and an AK-47— wield vast power, the Los Angeles Times reports, citing a claim filed against the county.
In his deposition L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Austreberto Gonzalez identified Vega and Hernandez as prospective members of the Executioners. Their attorneys denied those allegations, the Times reports.
The suit filed on behalf of parents Elisa and Cristobal Guardado also names Vega and Hernandez, seeking general, economic and statutory damages, including funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support and attorney fees.
On the night of the fatal shooting, the deputies were out on patrol when they saw Guardado talking to someone in a car that was blocking a driveway about 6 p.m., so they approached him.
The deputies saw a gun in Guardado’s waistband area and directed him to stop, but he took off running, according to the county coroner’s report.
“Guardado reportedly looked toward the deputies, reached [for] a handgun and ran southbound down the driveway of the business at the location,” sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener has previously said. “Deputies gave chase on foot, and ultimately caught up to Guardado at the rear of the business, where a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”
A loaded gun was found next to Guardado in the 400 block of West Redondo Beach Boulevard after the shooting and it had his DNA on it, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The family’s suit alleges that the shooting violated Guardado’s civil rights.
Andres “never posed a risk of imminent injury or death” to the deputies, and they had no reason to believe Andres had committed a crime, attorneys said, calling the shooting an “execution.”
The department said only one of the two deputies opened fire — firing six rounds, five of which hit Guardado. Attorneys said it was Vega who opened fire.
“Deputy Miguel Vega, without provocation or justification, and with willful and conscious disregard, fatally unloaded, at least six shots at Andres’ back,” the suit states.
Vega had faced earlier accusations, including making false statements in a 2017 investigation, and has had three complaints lodged against him during his time at the Compton station, the Times reported.
“Each of them, had a history of bad traffic and pedestrian stops, improper uses of force, improperly discharging their firearms, failing to follow proper procedures, and making false statements during investigations. Yet, the deputies were never disciplined, or were not disciplined properly, and were never trained or re-trained properly, and were never removed from service,” the suit states.
Attorneys allege the Sheriff’s Department “knew or should have known that Deputy Miguel Vega,
Deputy Chris Hernandez … were unfit and incompetent to carry out the duties of a police officer.”
Because the DVR connected to the security cameras at that location were seized during a previous shooting investigation, there is no video recording of the Guardado shooting, Commander Chris Marks said in an August news conference.
It still remains unclear what prompted the use of force. The investigation into the shooting remains ongoing and the FBI is reviewing it.
The 18-year-old’s shooting in the alley drew outrage from community members and sparked protest and calls for justice as the family sought answers for their loved one’s killing.
The case drew controversy, particularly when the Sheriff’s Department placed Guardado’s autopsy report in a “security hold,” which the L.A. County coroner’s office defied — something that hadn’t been done before.
“By filing this lawsuit, we are not only committing to expose the truth surrounding the unjustified shooting of Andres Guardado, but seeking to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again to anyone in our communities,” attorney Nicholas Yoka said in a statement. “The Guardado family deserves their day in court and they are now taking the first step toward getting justice for the death of their son at the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”