Family of Andres Guardado sues Sheriff’s Department, deputies involved in fatal shooting
The family of Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old fatally shot by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in June, has sued the Sheriff’s Department, the deputy who opened fire and his partner, alleging an unreasonable use of lethal force and a lack of oversight from the department that caused “needless loss of life.”
Amid a summer roiled by controversial uses of lethal force, Guardado’s death near an auto body shop in Gardena has been particularly contentious.
The Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner released an autopsy report over the sheriff’s objections, showing the teenager had been shot five times in the back. Sheriff’s Department leadership have said Guardado displayed a handgun when two deputies spotted him outside the auto body shop, where Guardado’s family said he worked as a security guard.
The deputies chased Guardado down a driveway. He had surrendered, placed the handgun on the ground and was lying face down when one of the deputies, Miguel Vega, approached to cinch handcuffs around the teenager’s wrists, Vega’s attorney previously told The Times. According to the deputy’s account, Guardado reached for the gun, prompting Vega to unholster his service weapon and fire six shots, five of which hit Guardado.
Sheriff’s homicide detectives are still investigating Guardado’s death.
In their lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Guardado’s parents, Elisa and Cristobal Guardado, sued the Sheriff’s Department, the county and the two deputies involved in the shooting: Vega and Christopher Hernandez. The family’s attorneys leveled a raft of allegations against the defendants, charging that the two deputies chased Guardado for no reason before Vega “unloaded” into Guardado’s back “without provocation or justification.”
The complaint sought to link the deputies to a reputed gang said to operate out of the Compton station where Vega and Hernandez were based. In a recent deposition, a deputy at the Compton station, Austreberto Gonzalez, said Vega and Hernandez were prospective members of the gang, dubbed the Executioners — a claim the deputies’ lawyers deny.
Citing the deputies’ “possible affiliations” with the Executioners and another reputed deputy clique, the 3000 Boys, the Guardado family’s lawyers accused the Sheriff’s Department of negligence, saying Sheriff Alex Villanueva has failed to weed out these deputy gangs, which the lawsuit describes as a “conspiracy to commit battery against the public.”
The Sheriff’s Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Vega’s attorney, Adam Marangell, said the lawsuit was brimming with “reckless and erroneous” claims and “appears to be a calculated effort to inflame and distort public perception against the Sheriff’s Department generally and Deputy Vega specifically.”
Vega, Marangell said, “did everything possible to avoid firing his weapon, including issuing clear and repeated commands to ‘not reach for the gun.’” He said the deputy was looking forward to the “actual facts” becoming public.
Hernandez’s attorney, Tom Yu, said the deputy’s conduct was “reasonable under the circumstances.” He noted that he represents Hernandez only in criminal and administrative matters and said the county would appoint him a lawyer to defend him in the civil suit.
The criminal investigation into Guardado’s death continues. California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra rebuffed a request from Villanueva to monitor his department’s inquiry, telling the sheriff in a letter that the attorney general’s office intervenes in investigations of police shootings only in “exceptional circumstances,” such as a conflict of interest or abuse of discretion.
Sheriff’s investigators offered a limited update on the inquiry last month, describing the auto body shop near where Guardado was killed as a hot spot for crime. The deputies involved in Guardado’s death had been called two weeks earlier to the same location, where they found a man with gunshot wounds, Cmdr. Chris Marks said.
Investigators served a search warrant and found bottles of nitrous oxide gas, methamphetamine and a shotgun, sheriff’s officials said, although they conceded they found no evidence linking Guardado to the seized items.
Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.
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