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Sheriff asks state to monitor Gardena shooting but puts hold on autopsy findings

Demonstrators rally outside the L.A. County sheriff's station in Compton to protest the shooting death of Andres Guardado.
Demonstrators rally outside the L.A. County sheriff’s station in Compton on Sunday to protest the shooting death of security guard Andres Guardado.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on Monday asked the California attorney general to monitor its investigation of the controversial shooting of a man in Gardena but also blocked the public from learning the results of an autopsy the coroner was scheduled to perform on 18-year-old Andres Guardado.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Twitter on Monday that he had reached out to Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra to monitor the Guardado investigation “out of an abundance of caution.”

“I am committed to transparency and strengthening community faith in the investigative process,” he wrote.

But L.A. County coroner’s spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said the Sheriff’s Department put a “security hold” on the case of Guardado, who was to be examined on Monday. She said the coroner’s office could not release the results of the autopsy — which would reveal how many times Guardado was struck by gunfire and where — until the hold was lifted.

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A Sheriff’s Department spokesman did not respond to a question about why the hold was sought, but Ardalani said the department had said that “investigators wish to maintain the integrity of the investigation, and premature release of information could jeopardize the case.”

It’s not uncommon for law enforcement agencies to place security holds on high-profile police shootings, but the holds don’t automatically expire and can last months or even years. At any given time, there may be dozens of cases with security holds.

Villanueva has provided few details about what led up to the shooting. There have been growing demands for answers from Guardado’s family and community leaders, who held a protest Sunday that ended with deputies firing less-than-lethal weapons at them.

“Why’d you kill that kid?” the crowd chanted.

Compton Mayor Aja Brown on Monday called on the Sheriff’s Department to respond to those demands.

“People are hurting and they are tired of excuses,” she said in a statement. “I strongly urge the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to address this incident immediately and provide answers for the family and our community.”

U.S. Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-San Pedro) and Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), along with Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, have called for independent investigations.

Guardado was shot about 6 p.m. Thursday near a Gardena auto body shop, said Capt. Kent Wegener of the homicide bureau. Guardado was speaking with someone in a car that was blocking the location when deputies from the Compton sheriff’s station pulled up, Wegener said.

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Guardado “produced a handgun” and ran away, and two deputies chased him on foot, Wegener said. When the deputies caught up to him, one of them fired six rounds at him. Guardado was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities said they did not know whether Guardado had pointed his weapon at the deputy, and said they “don’t believe” Guardado fired any shots.

Guardado’s family said he had worked as a security guard for Street Dynamic Auto Body, close to where he was shot. Authorities said Guardado was under the 21-year age requirement to be a security guard in California and was not wearing a uniform. They said the .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol he was carrying was not licensed.

The owner of Street Dynamic Autobody, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Slavin, said another auto shop on the property had hired Guardado. He said the building is home to about five other auto shops.

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He said investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department took the DVR connected to the surveillance cameras on the property but did not provide him or the property owner with a copy of a search warrant or receipts.

Slavin said that after a shooting about a week or two ago, detectives used a warrant to conduct a search of the property. He said detectives provided him with a copy of the warrant and a receipt for a DVR they took.

“Second time around they didn’t give me no paperwork, no warrant, literally nothing,” Slavin said.

Wegener said investigators seized about six cameras from the building’s exterior. As of Saturday, he said, they had not obtained any footage that captured the shooting. The deputies were not wearing body cameras because the Sheriff’s Department has not distributed them to the force.

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As of Monday, the department had not provided a clearer narrative of why Guardado was shot.

“What happened to Andres was not only a tragedy, it was an outright crime,” said Ron Gochez, a member of Union del Barrio, which organized the demonstration. “This is just one more of so many people who have been killed by the L.A. County sheriffs and the police.... This is the unity between the Black and brown community saying we are tired of this.”


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