The deputy who shot and killed a teenager at a Los Angeles auto shop more than 10 days ago has not yet spoken to investigators but is expected to do so soon, his attorney said Monday.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Miguel Vega will “give an interview in the next week to 10 days,” his attorney Adam Marangell told CNN.
Vega fired the shot that killed 18-year-old Andres Guardado in Gardena, while Deputy Chris Hernandez was trailing behind him to support as backup, their attorneys said Friday.
Guardado’s death on June 18 sparked outcry across Los Angeles, with his family and others demanding justice. The shooting happened amid weeks of demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in the hands of Minneapolis police in late May.
The deputies pursued Guardado after he “produced a handgun,” looked toward the deputies and ran from the front of an auto body shop, said Captain Kent Wegener, of the LASD Homicide Bureau, after the shooting.
One of the deputies fired six rounds after catching up to Guardado at the rear of the business. Guardado was hit in the upper torso and pronounced dead at the scene, Wegener said. An autopsy is pending, but the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office said last week that the sheriff’s department had placed a “security hold” on the case, meaning it could be some time before results are released to the public.
“Guardado refused multiple commands not to reach for a gun, forcing deputy Vega to fire his weapon in fear for his life,” Marangell told CNN on Friday.
Guardado’s family has said he was working as a security guard at the auto body shop. The family, as well as the City of Compton, is demanding the sheriff’s department provide more information about what happened.
Wegener said Guardado was not wearing a security uniform, nor did he have a gun belt. Guardado was also too young to work as a licensed armed security guard in California, he said.
Deputies ‘are very sorry for the loss of life,’ lawyer says
Tom Yu, an attorney representing Hernandez, separately recounted his client’s statement to investigators, echoing Wegener’s comments that the deputies were driving by the auto shop, where an assault had been reported a week earlier.
“They were providing extra patrols in the area to ensure the safety of the citizens there,” Yu said.
“They drove by and they saw a car in front, with Guardado talking to some females there outside the car. The deputies saw the butt of a firearm sticking out of the waistband of Guardado’s pants. The deputies approached Guardado and he starts running down the alley, or driveway.”
According to Yu, Vega gave Guardado “a command to ‘get on the ground, do not reach for that gun.'” Though the teen got on the ground, he still had “access to his firearm,” Yu said.
“The deputies saw the butt of a firearm sticking out of the waistband of Guardado’s pants,” Yu continued. “The deputies approached Guardado and he starts running down the alley, or driveway. Vega is in front of my client and he gives Guardado a command to ‘get on the ground, do not reach for that gun.’ Guardado prones-out, he’s on the ground but he has access to his firearm. My client can see (only) half of Guardado’s body because his view is blocked by a wall.”
“Because Guardado is not listening to commands and reaches for the firearm, Vega is in fear for his life,” Yu added. “Vega had nowhere to go, no cover.”
Yu called the incident “a justified shooting that happened at the wrong time.”
“They were trying to conduct extra patrols,” Yu said. “They are very sorry for the loss of life, sorry for the (Guardado) family. They did not go to work that morning to harm people, they just wanted to go home after their shift to their families.”
Attorneys representing the Guardado family disputed the claims by the deputies’ lawyers.
“There is zero evidence supporting any claim that Andres Guardado was not responding to deputy commands — his death is the result of an unwarranted and unjustified killing,” Adam Shea, an attorney representing the family, told CNN.
Autopsy report on ‘security hold’
A makeshift shrine formed outside the autobody shop in Gardena, California, on June 21, where mourners left bouquets of flowers, balloons, notes and pictures of Guardado.
“He was a baby, he was a baby,” Guardado’s cousin, Celina Abarca, told CNN at the time. “I don’t know — it’s still not real. I close my eyes and I hope and I pray that it’s not really happening.”
As the community and his family continue to mourn, they are also seeking answers.
“The Guardado family is again requesting full transparency from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department and the immediate release of the autopsy report,” Shea said.
The hold was placed on Guardado’s autopsy report amid demands for an independent investigation into the shooting.
“Since LASD placed a security hold on the case, the report and the cause of death cannot be released to the public,” Sarah Ardalani, the Public Information Officer for the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office, told CNN on June 22.
Guardado’s body was scheduled to be examined that day but with the hold, it could be some time before the results are released to the public.
The hold could last for “months to years, depending on the investigation and the agency,” according to Ardalani.
“They are clearly hiding information because they know they are in the wrong,” said Nicholas Yoka, a second attorney representing the Guardado family.
“These statements raise more questions than answers and confirm our belief that Andres presented no threat whatsoever to these officers. We believe that once our investigation is complete, we will demonstrate beyond any doubt that this was an act of unjustified police violence against another innocent young man.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told CNN last Thursday that releasing the autopsy results would taint witness testimony.
He added following procedure and protocols takes time, and that detectives want to hear and collect all the evidence.