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Sheriff’s chief of staff reassigned after he posted Andres Guardado ‘chose his fate’

Demonstrators protest after the death of Andres Guardado, who was fatally shot by an L.A. County sheriff's deputy last month.
Demonstrators protest after the death of Andres Guardado, who was fatally shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy last month.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s chief of staff is being reassigned after facing criticism for recent social media posts in which he said Andres Guardado, the 18-year-old who was fatally shot in the back by a deputy in Gardena last month, “chose his fate.”

Capt. John Burcher, one of Villanueva’s closest advisors, will be removed as chief of staff and transferred to the agency’s East Patrol Division, effective Sunday, according to an internal Sheriff’s Department announcement.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Burcher declined to comment on the social media posts or the new assignment.

Screenshots of the posts show that Burcher also hurled insults at other Facebook users. In one post, he called someone an idiot and a moron. In a second he called someone a “racist” and used an expletive.

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“Sorry, your life does not matter more than mine does, you racist...” the post said.

A Sheriff’s Department spokesman said in a statement Wednesday that the agency has initiated an administrative investigation and that Burcher had been reassigned. He declined to comment further.

Attorneys representing Guardado’s family said Burcher’s comments show that the Sheriff’s Department is incapable of conducting an independent investigation into the shooting, which has generated large protests and widespread calls for an outside inquiry.

“It is deeply troubling that on the same day Sheriff Villanueva issues a statement that the Sheriff’s Department would not be providing any commentary on the Andres Guardado case until the investigation has completed, the sheriff’s own chief of staff took to social media and did exactly just that,” attorney Nicholas Yoka said in a statement. “Not only did Capt. Burcher personally vilify a young man who was shot and killed by one of his own deputies, he did so in a public forum and in the middle of a homicide investigation conducted by his own department.”

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Burcher’s statements indicate the results of the department’s investigation are predetermined, Yoka contended.

The Sheriff’s Department has been tight-lipped about the shooting investigation.

Investigators have said that Guardado was shot and killed about 6 p.m. on June 18, after two deputies saw him speaking to someone in a car blocking the entrance to a body shop on West Redondo Beach Boulevard. Investigators said that Guardado “produced a handgun” and ran away and that deputies chased him. When deputies reached him, one fired. They said a firearm was recovered from the scene.

The deputy who fired, Miguel Vega, was not interviewed until Monday, nearly a month after Guardado’s death. His attorney, Adam Marangell, said that Guardado reached for his gun while face down on the ground and that the shooting was justified.

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“During this interview he made clear that he did everything possible that night to avoid firing his weapon, including repeated commands to ‘not reach for the gun,’” Marangell said in a statement. “Deputy Vega went to work that day to protect the citizens of the community and, unfortunately, was forced to take action which resulted in a loss of life.”


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