Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Nanette Diaz Barragán over the weekend called on the state attorney general to investigate the deadly shooting of 18-year-old Andres Guardado by a deputy in the Gardena area on Thursday.
Waters and Barragán represent communities in the South Los Angeles and the South Bay regions, where the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said one of two officers patrolling the West Compton neighborhood fired six rounds at the teen around 6 p.m. on June 18.
Guardado was struck in the torso and pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
“Another day, and another Black or Brown kid has been shot in the back by police,” said a joint statement from Waters’ and Barragán’s offices. “These killings must stop. We demand it. The American people demand it.”
The Sheriff’s Department has not confirmed whether the deputy shot Guardado in the back. In a news conference Saturday, Capt. Kent Wegener said the county coroner will perform an autopsy “within the coming days” and publish a report.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra has not announced plans to investigate Guardado’s killing. But his office, along with the FBI, is already overseeing the Sheriff’s Department’s probe of the hanging death of Robert Fuller in Palmdale. The county’s initial announcement that the 24-year-old Black man’s death was an apparent suicide drew skepticism, partly fueled by a history of racism in the Antelope Valley.
“We’re always willing to reach out to the attorney general,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said as he addressed Guardado’s case on Saturday. “However, I think this point is premature because we’re still working, it’s brand new. And obviously the attorney general, it’s a big state, they’re not that big of an organization to be able to be everywhere for every single deputy shooting.”
Meanwhile, calls for justice have grown louder in the Antelope Valley after sheriff’s deputies killed two Black men in separate incidents on June 11 and June 17. One of them was Fuller’s half-brother.
“Change must come now,” said the joint statement from Waters and Barragán on Sunday. “For weeks, the American people and the world have marched to demand accountability, put an end to aggressive and violent police tactics, and equal justice for Black and Brown communities. We must show them their pleas are being heard now.”
Questions loom over Guardado’s killing
The deadly encounter in West Compton unfolded on Redondo Beach Boulevard near Figueroa Street, where the Sheriff’s Department said two deputies spotted Guardado talking to somebody inside a vehicle blocking a driveway the evening of June 18.
The officers stopped the vehicle, and Guardado “reportedly looked toward the deputies, reached a handgun and ran,” according to the Wegener.
The deputies chased the 18-year-old and caught up with him in the back of a business, where the deputy shot Guardado, the captain said.
Guardado never fired the weapon, and it’s unclear whether he had the gun in his hand the whole time, Wegener said.
The Sheriff’s Department has not provided details about what exactly prompted the deputy to open fire, only saying that Guardado held a gun with a loaded, illegal large-capacity magazine as he fled from the officers.
The deputies were not wearing body cameras, but the Sheriff’s Department said investigators are working on obtaining any surveillance footage from nearby businesses.
Andrew Haney, who identified himself as a mechanic and manager at an auto shop, told KTLA Guardado was just hanging out by his business when the deputies arrived.
The teenager would sometimes come from his job elsewhere to learn from the mechanics and watch out for any vandals, Haney told the Associated Press.
“He was just looking out for us and the property,” said Haney, adding that his business did not formally employ Guardado.
Family members told KTLA that Guardado worked as a security guard, preventing graffiti at a business. But the Sheriff’s Department said the teen did not have a state license to be a security guard nor was he wearing a uniform at the time of the shooting.
Area resident Georgena Laird told the AP that she heard gunshots after seeing the deputies run down an alley.
“I didn’t hear them say ‘stop, freeze,’ no nothing,” said Laird, who called Guardado a “sweetheart” who would offer her money, juice or soda when her husband was hospitalized.
Guardado’s family and local activists have been gathering at the site of the shooting to remember the 18-year-old and demand answers for his death.
On Thursday night, tensions heightened as deputies shoved people away from an area surrounded by police tape.
The teenager’s sister, Jennifer Guardado, spoke at a news conference the next day. She said her brother fled from the officers because he was frightened.
Activist Najee Ali said she also believes Guardado was scared: “He ran away because he did what all young Black and Latino men do sometimes when they see the police: They run.”