Activists and family members are speaking out against the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s decision not to file charges in the deputy-involved deaths of two teens in two separate shootings.
“He doesn’t get to pick and choose what cases he prosecutes,” activist and translator Alejandro Villalpando said of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
Two separate families gathered Monday on the steps of the Hall of Justice building in downtown Los Angeles to demand action for the deaths of the two teens.
Translating for the father of one of the victims, 18-year-old Andres Guardado, Villalpando said the grieving father can’t understand why the district attorney would decide the shooting deaths were not homicides.
The 18-year-old was shot five times in the back by sheriff’s deputies on June 18, 2020. Deputies said they saw him with a handgun. In a memo from the DA’s office to the Los Angeles Times, officials said the teen complied with orders to drop the gun, but as one of the deputies moved to handcuff Guardado, he allegedly reached for the weapon.
Former Deputy Miguel Vega was identified as the person who fired the fatal shot. He was accompanied by former Deputy Chris Hernandez, who served as his backup that night.
“How do you shoot someone five times in the back, and nothing is wrong?” Villalpando said.
Guardado’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the sheriff’s department and L.A. County alleging the deputies used excessive force during the encounter.
Last week, the DA announced he would not prosecute the two deputies involved.
“In this particular case, we looked at the facts extensively. We looked at them twice,” Gascón said. “I personally kicked back this case multiple times because I had additional questions. At the end of a complete review, I as well as others that reviewed this case, came to the conclusion that this was not a prosecutable case.”
Cliff Smith, with the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, spoke out against Gascón’s decision, along with the family.
“We ask District Attorney George Gascón upon what basis is he making his statement,” he said.
Smith’s criticism of the DA comes after the same two deputies were named in a five-count indictment for a separate case alleging they falsely imprisoned a man and then tried covering it up.
The family of Anthony Weber also made an emotional plea. The 16-year-old was chased by sheriff’s deputies in 2018 and was shot several times by a different set of deputies, who claimed the teen had a gun. However, a weapon was never found. Weber’s family reached a settlement with the county, but no criminal charges were ever filed against those deputies.
In response to the Guardado case, Gascón’s office released a statement, saying in part:
“Nothing that my office can do will mitigate the unimaginable pain that those who knew and loved Andres must be feeling. This decision doesn’t validate the actions of these officers. They have a troubling background of misconduct and that was thoroughly considered.”
Referencing Weber’s case, the DA released a statement, saying in part:
“We have an obligation only to charge cases that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Me deepest sympathies go out to Anthony’s family and all those who knew him.”