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Family of young Latino fatally shot by sheriff's deputy want autopsy report released

"My family and my community feel destroyed because we still don't know anything," said Andrés Guardado's mother at a press conference. "We don't know anything."
A woman participates in a rally with activists and relatives of Andres Guardado, who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy in Gardena, in Compton, Calif. on June 28, 2020.David McNew / AFP - Getty Images

It's been 13 days since the last time Elisa Guardado saw her son alive.

"He told me he was going to come back home and eat some tacos dorados, but he never came back home. My family and my community feel destroyed because we still don't know anything. We don't know what happened with my son," said Guardado in Spanish during a press conference on Tuesday in Los Angeles, demanding answers about the circumstances surrounding the death of Andrés Guardado, 18.

The young man was fatally shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on June 18, while working as a security guard at an auto body shop in Gardena.

The results of Andrés' autopsy report, said attorney Adam Shea at the press conference, could help bring some clarity to the family and community members mourning the 18-year-old's death. His firm, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, represents the family.

But the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department placed a “security hold” on Andrés' case last week. The hold was placed two days after Capt. Kent Wegener, head of the homicide bureau, said at a news conference they planned on releasing the autopsy report to the public.

As long as "the case remains on security hold, the report cannot be released" to the public, Sarah Ardalani, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner, told NBC News in an email.

The officials’ failure to explain exactly what sparked the deputy-involved shooting that resulted in Andrés' killing has made the family's "grieving process that much more difficult," attorney Spencer Lucas, who works with Shea, told NBC News.

Demanding "immediate release" of report

Since then, the Guardado family has been urging officials to immediately release the Los Angeles County medical examiner's report following Andrés' autopsy.

Andrés' parents, Elisa and Cristóbal, and their attorneys sent a letter to Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Sunday "to demand the immediate release" of the autopsy report after it was placed on hold "without explanation or justification."

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department did not respond to NBC News' request for comment about the letter or the "security hold" placed on the autopsy.

The family and attorneys sent a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Monday urging them to "intervene and arrange for the release of Andrés' autopsy report," after similar requests made to Villanueva were "ignored."

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors did not respond to NBC News' request for comment.

At a time when "there's been some conflicting information as far as exactly what happened," Shea said, they have not received a response following the "county and the sheriff's department refusal to give us information."

The family has hired an independent forensic expert to conduct an autopsy, said Lucas, and they expect to have results in a matter of days, "and that should really shed light on what exactly occurred."

According to Wegener, two deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office saw Andrés talking to someone in a car on West Redondo Beach Boulevard when he looked at the deputies, “produced a handgun” and started running away. After deputies chased Andrés into an alley in the back of a building, one of the deputies shot him six times, hitting him in the upper torso. Andrés was pronounced dead at the scene.

Shea said that based on the information they "have at this time from witnesses is that they believe he was shot in the back." Wegener said autopsy results would determine that.

At the scene, investigators recovered a modified .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol that appeared to have been pieced together from different parts. It had no markings or serial number and had not been fired, according to Wegener, leading police to believe that Andrés didn’t fire the gun.

Authorities have suggested that the weapon belonged to Andrés, "and that information is contrary to everything that the family and friends and coworkers know," said Shea.

"We do not believe that he had a gun. There was a gun at the scene, how and why that gun was there and who it belonged to is a question that needs to be answered," he added.

Authorities have not yet said what prompted the shooting.

One reason details around what prompted the incident remain unclear is that the officers didn’t have body cameras, and investigators have struggled to access surveillance video from the alley where the shooting took place.

It is still unclear whether there's any surveillance video showing what happened, said Shea.

Authorities have not yet released the names of the deputies involved, but sources close to the case identified them as Deputies Miguel Vega, who opened fire, and Chris Hernandez, who didn't shoot, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Many options for a bright future"

Cristóbal Guardado, Andrés' father, told NBC News in Spanish that he still waits for his son to return home.

"My son was a boy with many options for a bright future. He liked to work, study and do sports," he said, adding that his son dreamed of becoming a doctor one day.

Guardado's work as a security guard was one of two jobs he had while going to school at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, his family said.

On Monday, Villanueva told members of the Compton City Council that he would soon make public investigative findings in the shooting of Andrés, including surveillance videos and search warrants, NBC's Los Angeles affiliate KNBC reported.

"We've been asking for very basic information that should be provided to a grieving family," said Lucas. "It's making not only the fact finding that much harder, but it's adding further stress and grief on the family."

The Guardado family has already started the process to formally sue L.A. County officials over their son's killing, said Lucas.

"The only thing we want is Justice for Andrés and that the people that harmed him pay for what they did to my son," Cristóbal said.

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