The deputy who fatally shot an 18-year-old man near Gardena last month still has not been interviewed by investigators, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said Wednesday, as calls intensified from the family and civil rights activists for the release of more information in the case.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he could not offer an opinion on the June 18 fatal shooting by a deputy of Andres Guardado until the homicide investigation is completed.
However, Cmdr. Chris Marks, who oversees the sheriff’s Detective Division Headquarters, offered more details about that investigation at an afternoon news briefing, saying that of the two deputies involved in the shooting, the one who didn’t fire a weapon has been interviewed by investigators.
Officials are still hoping the unidentified deputy who shot Guardado would issue a voluntary statement, Marks said.
“This is a criminal investigation, so all persons that are going to be interviewed are entitled to the Fifth Amendment, and deputies are no exception to this, so they provide a voluntary statement,” Marks said.
“We’re not in an administrative investigation at this time, so we cannot compel the statement. We’re relying on that deputy to provide a voluntary statement.”
“We’re on his timetable, to answer you bluntly,” Marks said in answer to reporter’s question.
Marks said the deputy who shot Guardado is scheduled to be interviewed within a week, and an administrative investigation would begin as soon as the criminal probe is concluded.
Marks said sheriff’s officials have not been given the official autopsy results by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office. He said investigators have determined that six rounds were fired by the deputy, but they had no evidence that Guardado fired a shot. A gun was recovered at the scene that is believed to have belonged to Guardado, he added.
Cameras seized at the scene did not contain any video recording of the shooting, Marks said.
Inspector General Max Huntsman said in a letter to Villanueva Wednesday that his office requested on June 22 documents and video recovered in the investigation but have received no response.
“I ask you to provide us the items requested immediately,” Huntsman wrote.
Huntsman also indicated that his office has offered to participate in interviews and assist in outreach to witnesses who are “reluctant to cooperate with the sheriff’s department.”
Guardado was shot around 6 p.m. June 18 near the 400 block of West Redondo Beach Boulevard. Sheriff’s officials have said two patrol deputies were at the scene in a marked vehicle when Guardado pulled out a handgun, then began running. Deputies chased him and caught up with him in an alley, and one deputy fired the fatal shots.
Guardado was pronounced dead at the scene. Sheriff’s officials said a weapon was discovered at the scene — an unregistered .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol with a polymer frame and no serial number, a Smith & Wesson slide and a prohibited 15-round Glock magazine.
Earlier Wednesday, a law firm representing the victim reported that an autopsy performed by an independent forensic pathologist on Guardado found that he was shot five times in the back.
“Andres was fatally shot five times in the back and suffered a graze abrasion to his left forearm with a forward trajectory,” according to the statement released by Panish Shea & Boyle LLP.
“Additionally, preliminary forensic toxicology results have confirmed that Andres did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the incident.”
Relatives have said Guardado was working as an informal security guard for an auto body shop in the area, and was doing so when he was approached by the deputies.
“An autopsy performed on Andres by the L.A. County Medical Examiner was immediately placed on a security hold by the Sheriff’s Department, leaving his family without answers,” Angela Bailey, director of public relations for Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, said in a statement Wednesday.
“At the family’s request, a second autopsy was performed on Andres by an independent forensic pathologist which was completed on June 26, 2020,” Bailey said.
The second autopsy was performed by “renowned independent forensic pathologist/neuropathologist Dr. Bennet I. Omalu,” the law firm’s statement said.
“The Guardado family, and their attorneys, believe that the preliminary findings from the second autopsy prove that Andres’ death was, without a doubt, the result of unjustified police violence against an innocent young man,” the law firm’s statement said.
“It has been 20 days since Andres was tragically gunned down by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy,” said attorney Nicholas Yoka.
“We are once again imploring the Sheriff’s Department to step forward, release the Medical Examiner’s autopsy report and do the right thing by this family.”
Guardado’s parents, Ciristobal and Elisa Guardado, released the following statement via the law firm:
“These findings confirm what we have known all along, which is that Andres was unjustifiably killed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy. Andres was a good boy, he was our son and he had so much life ahead of him. Our son did not deserve to die this way. We understand that there is still a long way to go, but we are going to continue to keep fighting for justice for Andres.
“We want to ensure that other families do not have to suffer as we have. We ask that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department release their security hold on the autopsy report and all other evidence they have. We want answers. We would like to thank everyone for their support during these difficult times. Last weekend, in a ceremony surrounded by all the people that loved Andres, we laid Andres to rest. We will not rest, however, until Andres gets justice.”
Also Wednesday, Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson and other civil rights leaders announced their intention to file a formal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division over the shooting death.
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