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Family members and local activists gathered Friday to call for justice for an 18-year-old man who was shot and killed by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies near Gardena.

Deputies from the Compton sheriff’s station saw Andres Guardado shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday in the 400 block of Redondo Beach Boulevard, an unincorporated area near West Compton.

Guardado was working as a security guard hired to protect a store from taggers at the time, family and witnesses told KTLA. But officials said he didn’t appear to be wearing a uniform and detectives don’t believe he was a licensed security guard.

“The suspect looked toward the deputies and produced a firearm then proceeded to run south bound between two businesses,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release Friday. It’s unclear what he was suspected of.

The deputies then followed the young man on foot and at least one ended up shooting at him, officials said, though it’s unclear what prompted the use of force.

“At the conclusion, the deputies contacted the suspect and a deputy involved shooting occurred,” the department said, without elaborating.

Guardado was struck in the torso and he died at the scene, where a loaded, unmarked handgun was recovered, authorities said.

His family and local activists said Friday they believe he was shot several times in the back while running away.

“What a cowardly move is that? He couldn’t even see the person that was going to shoot him,” his sister Jennifer Guardado said in an emotional news conference. “… He was a good man. He was gonna make it in life, he was gonna make it, and become a good professional man in life, but they took that away from my family and me. “

She said the family is devastated and called for justice for her younger brother.

“My parents are completely destroyed, we’re all dead already inside,” she said. “My brother’s gone. He’s never gonna come back, but there will be justice in this world.”

She recalled seeing her brother laying on the ground for hours, and said officials wouldn’t let the family see the body. “I didn’t even get to say goodbye,” she said, holding back tears.

The fatal shooting resulted in a face-off between deputies and a small group that gathered at the scene Thursday, including the family. Separated by police tape, deputies could be seen shoving people away, including a man carrying a child, video showed.

The Sheriff’s Department said it’s continuing the investigation into the shooting. The deputies did not wear body cameras, and investigators are hoping to find surveillance video from nearby businesses, sheriff’s Lt. Charles Calderaro told the Associated Press.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the young man had fired or brandished the gun at the deputies, Calderaro said.

“My brother was frightened,” his sister said. “He ran away because he knew what was gonna happen.”

By Friday afternoon, a makeshift memorial for Guardado grew outside the store where he was before he was shot, with people stopping by to hang posters and leave flowers and candles.

Looking out at the posters, Stanley Leiba, who identified himself as a childhood friend, said Guardado was a “hard-working, humble kid” who “never meant harm to anybody.”

“You expect kids you grow up with to live forever,” Leiba said as he stood by the somber memorial.

Noe Abarca, who said he’s Guardado’s uncle, told the Associated Press that the young man — who graduated high school about a year ago — didn’t trust police and that the family doubts he had a gun.

The Los Angeles Community College District issued a statement and said Guardado attended Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. The agency called his death a tragedy, according to AP.

In a statement, the district said “strongly supports” the family’s call for an independent investigation into the killing, adding that the death “comes at a time of national outcry for social justice and significant police reform regarding the use of deadly force.”

Well-known L.A. activist Najee Ali called the killing “an execution” and a “continuation of the L.A. County sheriff’s murdering black and brown men.”

“He ran away because he did what all young Black and Latino men do sometimes when they see the police: They run,” Ali said. “They run because they’re scared for their lives. They run because they know their lives might be at risk, and he knew exactly what was gonna happen. And sure enough, he died.”

Thursday’s shooting comes after weeks of massive protests throughout the county decrying police brutality against people of color in the wake of George Floyd’s in-custody death in Minneapolis.

The sheriff’s Compton station has recently faced backlash from city leaders after deputies were seen hitting a 24-year-old black man in a violent arrest on May 31.

Compton City Attorney Damon Brown said the city sent a letter to the Sheriff’s Department, demanding that it remove the involved deputies from the Compton station and replace them with “officers who would treat our residents with self respect and dignity that they deserve.”