Ex-deputy in high-profile shooting to plead guilty to violating skateboarder’s civil rights

Person documents line of sheriff's deputies during a picket organized by the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police
A person documents a line of sheriff’s deputies during a picket organized by the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police at the home of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Miguel Vega, who fatally shot Andres Guardado in Covina, on Aug. 2, 2020.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to violate the civil rights of a skateboarder by forcing him into the back of a patrol car and then trying to cover it up with a falsified report.

Christopher Hernandez, who was also involved in the highly publicized 2020 killing of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, and his former partner, Miguel Vega, were both charged in federal court earlier this year on a five-count indictment alleging conspiracy, witness tampering, falsification of records and deprivation of rights.

Both men pleaded not guilty in April. But the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that 37-year-old Hernandez agreed to a deal in which he’ll admit guilt to the felony conspiracy charge.


The plea agreement filed in court this week echoes allegations detailed in a Times investigation into the incident two years ago. Hernandez is expected to admit to many of those allegations in the coming weeks when he formally pleads guilty. Vega’s case is scheduled for trial in October.

Both former deputies were relieved of duty in connection with the incident in 2020. This week, a lawyer for Hernandez did not respond to a request for comment. Vega’s attorney declined to comment.

On Thursday evening, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it assisted federal agencies in the investigation that led to the indictments.

“The Sheriff’s Department is committed to holding employees accountable for their actions and expects them to exhibit the highest moral and ethical standards when serving our communities,” the department said.

News of the plea comes less than a week after an internal county email revealed that the California Department of Justice is reviewing the Guardado shooting. Though the email confirmed that state prosecutors had “accepted” the case, it did not indicate whether it was a criminal probe or a civil rights investigation and did not say what aspects of the case are under scrutiny.


On the afternoon of April 13, 2020, Vega and Hernandez pulled up to a group of young Black men outside a skate park in Compton. The deputies got out of their cruiser and ordered the men to lift their shirts, according to court filings.


From inside the skate park, 23-year-old Jesus Alegria yelled at the deputies to stop harassing the kids. According to prosecutors, Vega started arguing with Alegria, then challenged the skateboarder to a fight.

The deputy allegedly grabbed Alegria, pulled him through an opening in the fence, then shoved him into the back of the cruiser as Hernandez watched. In an interview afterward, Alegria told The Times that the deputies didn’t handcuff him or ask his name.

Instead, he said, they taunted him.

“We’re gonna get you set up right now,” one of the deputies said, according to Alegria. The deputy threatened to kick him out of the car in a gang-controlled neighborhood, Alegria said, and tell people on the street that he belonged to a rival gang.

According to the plea agreement, it was Vega who allegedly made those threats as he drove. Hernandez, who was sitting in the passenger seat, chimed in saying that he would beat up Alegria, according to the plea agreement.

The court filings say Vega told Alegria the deputies would lie and say he was on drugs to justify picking him up. Hernandez admitted that he did nothing to interfere, even though he didn’t believe Alegria was on drugs.

After a few minutes in the car, the deputies spotted a group of young teenagers on bikes and Vega started to chase them as they fled down an alley. Hernandez jumped out to follow them on foot, focusing on one who’d appeared to grab his waistband.


When Vega tried to drive down the alley after the biker, he crashed into a concrete wall and a parked BMW.

By Alegria’s estimate, they’d been traveling 55 to 60 mph at the time of the crash. Vega told authorities he was driving 30 to 35 mph. After the wreck, Vega climbed out the cruiser’s window and told Alegria to leave.

“Get the f— out of here,” he said, according to Alegria. As he walked away, Alegria realized there was blood dripping down his face from a gash on his eyebrow.

According to court filings, Vega then got on the radio and reported a man fleeing with a gun whose clothing he described as much like what Alegria had on that day. When other deputies picked him up, they drove him to a hospital where, according to Alegria, they pressured him to sign a citation to appear in court for being under the influence of methamphetamine.

“I didn’t wanna sign it because I know my truth: I’ve never even touched that drug in my life,” he told The Times in 2021.

In the plea agreement, Hernandez admitted he told another deputy at the hospital to issue the citation for methamphetamine even though he knew it wasn’t true. Then, he and Vega allegedly wrote up false reports to cover up what had happened.


The first report said Alegria looked like he was on drugs and that he had threatened to harm people at the skate park. It also said there had been a crowd of people moving toward the cruiser when the deputies decided to drive away with Alegria in the back. A second report said the deputies had safely transferred Alegria to another cruiser after the crash, which the plea agreement says both deputies knew was not true.

In early 2021, Alegria filed a lawsuit accusing Vega and Hernandez of fabricating the drug charge and the arrest report to justify their reckless behavior. Last year, the county agreed to settle for $450,000.

By that point, Vega and Hernandez had already come under scrutiny for their role in the Guardado killing in June 2020.

Two months after the Alegria incident, the deputies were on patrol when they came upon Guardado talking with someone outside an auto body shop. The Sheriff’s Department said Guardado brandished a gun and ran into an alley, and Vega and Hernandez chased him. An autopsy showed that Vega shot the teen five times in the back. Vega’s attorney said Guardado was reaching for a gun.

Coming on the heels of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Guardado’s death prompted weeks of protests and increased scrutiny of the Compton sheriff’s station, which has been roiled by allegations about the presence of a violent deputy gang known as the Executioners. Following the Guardado shooting, a whistleblower claimed that Vega and Hernandez were prospective members of the group. Their attorneys denied the allegation.

Guardado’s family filed a lawsuit that the county settled last year for $8 million. But in April local prosecutors said they wouldn’t pursue a criminal case against the deputies, a move that has since prompted criticism from oversight officials and local activists.


At a meeting of the Civilian Oversight Commission this week, Sean Kennedy, the law professor who chairs the commission overseeing the Sheriff’s Department, reiterated his dismay at the district attorney’s handling of the case. He raised concerns about why officials hadn’t done more to investigate the deputies’ alleged links to the group commonly known as the Executioners.

“Those folks were not asked if they were in a deputy gang,” he said. “To this day I guess we just don’t have an answer.”