Hundreds gathered outside the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Compton station Sunday to demand justice for Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old Latino man shot and killed by a deputy in an encounter near Gardena earlier this week.
What started off as a peaceful demonstration later saw deputies using what appeared to be pepper balls or smoke grenades on a small group of protesters who had broken off from the main crowd and engaged in a standoff with deputies, video posted to social media showed.
The protesters ran away as smoke filled the air. Some could later be seen on the ground, with others pouring water on their face. At least one person appeared to have been injured from projectiles.
It’s unclear what prompted the deputies to resort to violence, but protesters could be seen yelling at the deputies, who were at first standing behind metal barriers.
The Sheriff’s Department confirmed deputies used flashbangs, pepper balls and smoke grenades on demonstrators Sunday, but did not elaborate on what prompted their use.
In the hours leading up to the confrontation, protesters gathered in Gardena around 2 p.m. and peacefully marched to the sheriff’s station in neighboring Compton.
They passed through Redondo Beach Boulevard, where the young man was fatally shot Thursday evening.
A drum beat accompanied demonstrators as they marched, chanting and holding up signs saying, “He Was Only 18,” “Justice for Andres Guardado,” “No Justice No Peace” and “Defund the Police.”
Some participated in the march from their cars and trucks, waving flags and blasting music.
Deputies blocked off roadways around the station and Compton City Hall in preparation for the protest, several of them seen in riot gear.
When protesters arrived at the station, standing behind the metal barriers, they waved their signs and yelled at the deputies, saying “do your job” and “put the gun down.”
Many demanded video footage of the shooting, which Guardado’s family and members of the community believe was another example of unjustified, unnecessary use of force against a person of color.
“Enough is enough,” and “Andres Guardado” was echoed through the crowd of hundreds, accompanied by a drum beat.
Aztec dancers in traditional garb and face coverings danced among the crowd, facing the deputies and with signs saying “black and brown lives matter.”
Several speakers addressed protesters, including the young man’s father, Christopher Guardado, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“As a parent, you feel so much pain,” he said. “You don’t want your kids, so young and with their whole lives ahead of them, to have their life unfairly destroyed.”
By 7 p.m., most of the crowd had dispersed but few remained in a standoff with deputies near city hall, where graffiti could be seen on the windows and pillars.
Officials have provided few information on Guardado’s killing and the encounter with deputies.
The young man died Thursday near an auto body shop in an unincorporated Gardena area during a confrontation with two deputies from the sheriff’s Compton station. Officials said the teen had a loaded, illegal gun and ran from deputies who chased him, one of them firing six rounds at him.
He was struck in the upper torso and pronounced dead at the scene.
Sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener said Saturday that investigators at this point don’t believe the young man had fired his gun but it’s unclear whether he pointed it at the deputies or if it was with him the whole time he was running.
The Sheriff’s Department said the deputies weren’t wearing body cameras and investigators were still trying to get surveillance footage to piece together what led up to the fatal shooting.
And as questions mount, Guardado’s family had disputed the Sheriff’s Department’s account of what happened. They say the young man was running away because he was scared, and that he was shot several times in the back as he ran. Wegener said that the county coroner will perform an autopsy “within the coming days” and confirm exactly where Guardado was shot.
The fatal shooting comes after weeks of massive protests throughout the county to decry police brutality against people of color in the wake of George Floyd’s in-custody death in Minneapolis.