Andres Guardado

Coroner's Autopsy Report Shows Andres Guardado Was Shot in Back by Deputy in Gardena

The coroner's report follows the release of an independent autopsy requested by the family of 18-year-old Andres Guardado that also showed he was shot five times in the back.

A photo of Andres Guardado.
Family Photo

The coroner’s office on Friday released the autopsy report of an 18-year-old man who was shot and killed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy in Gardena. 

The report released Friday follows this week's release of an independent autopsy requested by the family of Andres Guardado. Both reports show Guardado suffered five gunshot wounds to the back.

An additional two graze wounds were found on his forearms. 

The cause of death for Guardado is multiple gunshot wounds, all five of which were deemed fatal, the coroner determined. All rounds traveled from back to front and slightly upwards, according to the report.

The manner of death was certified as homicide.

Guardado was shot and killed June 18 near an auto body shop on Redondo Beach Boulevard. Deputies said Guardado was seen talking to someone in a car that was blocking a driveway, and that he had a gun when he began to run. A deputy fired a half-dozen rounds at Guardado, who died at the scene, according to authorities. 

The coroner's report was placed on a security hold by the Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said earlier that investigators were still trying to identify and interview witnesses, and releasing the report might compromise the probe 

Los Angeles County Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Jonathan Lucas issued the following statement about its decision to release the report: "After careful thought and deliberation, I am releasing the autopsy report of Andres Guardado Pineda. In doing so, I have given careful consideration to the major variables in this case – supporting the administration of justice, as well as the public’s right to know. I do not believe that these are mutually exclusive ideals. Both are important, particularly amid the ongoing national discussion about race, policing and civil rights. I believe that government can do its part by being more timely and more transparent in sharing information that the public demands and has a right to see."

Kim Tobin reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

The coroner’s official report was released following the release earlier this week of preliminary findings of an autopsy requested by family members. That report also showed Guardado shot five times in the back, according to attorneys for the family of Guardado. 

The autopsy requested by the family also showed Guardado suffered a graze wound on the left forearm, and that he did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time, the family's attorneys said.

The June 26 family autopsy was performed by Dr. Bennet I. Omalu, a forensic pathologist, the attorneys' statement said.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said that he would soon make public the investigative findings, but said progress was slowed by people who claimed on social media that they witnesses the killing. He called Friday's release of the coroner's report an unprecedented moved that could jeopardize the investigation.

"This move will now force the Sheriffs Department to use court orders to enforce security holds that exist for only one purpose -- to prevent tainting witness testimony prior to interviews," Villanueva said in a statement Friday afternoon. "Dr. Lucas has acknowledged succumbing to pressure from the Board of Supervisors and the Office of Inspector General, and has now made the astonishing admission that he sacrificed the integrity of the investigation in a bid to satisfy public curiosity."

Family members and other residents have held demonstrations and demanded more information about the shooting. Guardado family attorney Adam Shea issued a statement Friday, praising the decision to release the report.

"Even now, the Sheriff’s Department continues to fail in fulfilling its promises of transparency and accountability, both to the Guardado family, and to the public for which it serves," Shea said. "From the start, this investigation has been conducted in secrecy, with guarded intent to delay disclosure to the public and bury the truth about what happened in the moments before Andres' life was taken."

Guardado was fatally shot around 6 p.m. June 18 near the 400 block of
West Redondo Beach Boulevard by Deputy Miguel Vega, whose partner was also at the scene but did not open fire. Sheriff's officials have said the 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, where the shooting occurred.

Guardado died 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. Officials have said there is no evidence Guardado fired any shots.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said the deputy who fired the fatal shots still had not been interviewed by investigators. Villanueva said he could not offer an opinion on the shooting until the homicide investigation is completed.

Cmdr. Chris Marks, who oversees the sheriff's Detective Division Headquarters, said the deputy who didn't fire a weapon has been interviewed by investigators. He said officials were hoping the deputy who shot Guardado would issue a voluntary statement.

"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."

Cameras seized at the scene did not contain any video recording of the shooting, Marks said.

At attorney for Vega, the deputy who fired the shots, told the Los Angeles Times in a statement on Wednesday that Guardado ignored multiple commands to stop while he was running from the deputies, and that Guardado pulled out a gun during the chase.

Attorney Adam Marangell said Guardado then turned around and raised both arms, still holding the weapon. Guardado eventually put the firearm down then got on the ground, face-down, but the gun was still near his right hand, the attorney told The Times.

According to Marangell, Vega holstered his gun and approached Guaradado to put him in handcuffs, warning him, "Don't reach for the gun.''

But Guardado reached for the weapon, prompting Vega to open fire, Marangell said.

The attorney told The Times that the findings of the family's autopsy "do not alter in any way the ultimate fact that Deputy Vega acted properly and lawfully."

Tom Yu, an attorney for the second deputy, Hernandez, told The Times his client saw Guardado pull out a weapon while running and eventually saw him start to get on the ground under orders from Vega. When the shots were fired, the deputy had only a partial view of Guardado, Yu said.

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.

The LA County Board of Supervisors called for an independent investigation. Members unanimously approved a motion asking the sheriff to provide the county’s inspector general with “immediate and full access to all evidence requested in order to provide independent oversight.” The motion also called on the county counsel to report on alternative plans for an independent probe, including possible involvement by California’s attorney general.

Sheriff Villanueva says both the state attorney general and the FBI have agreed to monitor the investigation, which is still being handled by Sheriff’s detectives assigned to the homicide bureau.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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