LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Los Angeles County supervisor raised concerns today about the integrity of the investigation into the killing of 18-year-old Andres Guardado by a sheriff's deputy in unincorporated West Compton near Gardena, asking his colleagues to take steps to ensure an independent review.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas submitted an urgent motion asking the board to direct its lawyers, the inspector general, coroner and civilian oversight commission to come up with a plan to make sure that the “truth is uncovered and justice is served.''
Ridley-Thomas suggested that Sheriff Alex Villanueva -- who reached out to state Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday to ask his department to monitor the investigation -- might stymie attempts by the inspector general to effectively oversee the investigation.
“Unfortunately, the Sheriff's Department has a track record of not fully complying with requests and even subpoenas from the inspector general and the (civilian oversight commission),'' Ridley-Thomas said.
The supervisor seemed to go a step further in his motion.
“There is a need to take immediate action to preserve the integrity of evidence that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department may be collecting for the Andres Guardado fatal shooting investigation,'' the motion read.
For his part, Villanueva said he sought to involve the attorney general -- something he initially resisted -- out of an abundance of caution.
“I am committed to transparency and strengthening community faith in the investigative process,'' the sheriff tweeted on Monday.
Guardado's family issued a statement Monday through their attorneys upon hearing that the Sheriff's Department put a security hold on the autopsy results.
“The family of Andres Guardado demands answers. They demand accountability. They demand, and deserve, full transparency from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department regarding the facts surrounding the death of this young man,'' the statement read. “We will not rest until these facts are fully disclosed.''
The shooting sparked a number of protests against law enforcement violence, including a Sunday demonstration that turned chaotic when deputies fired pepper balls and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, ultimately making seven arrests for misdemeanors after declaring an “unlawful assembly.''
The protest began peacefully about 2 p.m. as more than 100 people began marching down West Redondo Beach Boulevard to the sheriff's Compton station.
As they marched, people in cars threw up their fists in solidarity and honked horns, the Los Angeles Times reported. Protesters wore masks and held signs saying, “Where's the footage?'' and “He ran because he was scared.''
At the Compton sheriff station, demonstrators squared off against deputies who were blocking the doors of the station. Demonstrators yelled, “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.'' What provoked the use of less-than-lethal force by the deputies was unclear.
Meanwhile, the sheriff's department publicly stated that Guardado was allegedly carrying an unregistered handgun with an illegal ammunition magazine, and was not wearing clothing identifying himself as a security guard.
The update from sheriff's officials came Saturday as Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-Los Angeles, and Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, called upon Becerra to conduct a full investigation into the shooting.
“Another day, and another Black or brown kid has been shot in the by police,'' Barragan and Waters said in a joint statement. “These killings must stop... We demand answers and call for an independent investigation in this tragic death. There must be full transparency so the public can trust the investigation and we know we are getting the truth.
“Andres Guardado is the latest young man of color killed by police gunfire. He was shot in the back. The officers involved did not wear body cameras,'' the legislators wrote.
Villanueva initially pushed back against the idea of an independent investigation at a press conference later Saturday, saying the Attorney General's Office did not have the resources to investigate every shooting. He also told reporters he had been asking for body cameras since December 2018, and blamed the delay on a lack of support from the county Board of Supervisors.
Ridley-Thomas and Villanueva then engaged in a back-and-forth on Twitter, with the supervisor pushing for independent review and both men fighting over who was responsible for delaying body cameras. A plan to implement cameras was in the works -- though they were never deployed – for years before Villanueva took office.
Investigators have yet to find video of the shooting, but search warrants were served to seize security cameras from nearby businesses and thus far, have not been found to contain footage of the shooting. Two of the cameras had ports for SD cards but no cards, according to the Sheriff's Department. A search warrant was also served on a third-party alarm company for Internet-based footage.
Homicide Capt. Kent Wegener told reporters that Guardado was talking with someone in a car when two deputies on patrol arrived at 5:52 p.m. Thursday at the Freeway Body Shop, in the 400 block of West Redondo Beach Boulevard, near Figueroa Street.
“Guardado reportedly looked toward the deputies, produced a handgun and ran southbound down the driveway of the business,'' Wegener said. Deputies chased and caught up with him behind the business, where one deputy fired six shots at him, striking him in the upper body, he said. Family and friends told reporters that Guardado was shot in the back.
Guardado was pronounced dead at the scene and an autopsy remained pending, Wegener said.
So far, the investigation has revealed that while Guardado was reportedly working as a security guard at the business, his weapon was an unregistered .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol with a polymer frame and no serial number, a Smith & Wesson slide and prohibited 15-round Glock magazine fully loaded, Wegener said.
He was not wearing a uniform or any clothing identifying him as a security guard and would have had to be 21 years old to be a state-licensed armed security guard, Wegener said. In addition, there was no record that he had any security guard license through the California Department of Consumer Affairs, nor did he have a gun belt, holster or spare magazine.
The Guardado shooting came 10 days after a man was found in the driveway of the same business, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, and a blood trail led into the building, which led investigators to get a search warrant that revealed narcotics and a shotgun, Wegener said. The victim survived and the shooting remains under investigation.
“Far too often, young brown and Black men are caught up in a `Shoot first, ask questions later' scenario with police officers,'' Barragan and Waters wrote. “We will not stand for it whether it is in Atlanta, or like this case, in South Los Angeles.''
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