Family of man killed by Los Angeles deputy calls for outside investigation

"I feel it in my soul that my brother was murdered and this was covered up," the victim’s sister said.
Image: Jennifer Guardado
Jennifer Guardado, 22, the sister of Andres Guardado, 18, who was fatally shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, at a community rally next to a memorial site in Gardena, California, on Friday. Damian Dovarganes / AP

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By Alicia Victoria Lozano

The family of an 18-year-old man who was shot six times by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy called Saturday for an independent investigation into his death.

The sister of Andres Guardado said they want officials to examine what led to her brother's death Thursday night in Gardena.

"Even if this is the last day I breathe, I'm not holding this back because I feel it in my soul that my brother was murdered, and this was covered up," Jennifer Guardado, 22, told NBC Los Angeles.

U.S. Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán and Maxine Waters, both Democrats from Los Angeles, joined the Guardado family in calling for an independent investigation.

"Another day and another Black or Brown kid has been shot in the back by police," they said in a joint statement. "These killings must stop. We demand it. The American people demand it."

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas added to the chorus, calling for the Office of the Inspector General to step in.

"I firmly believe that an immediate and independent investigation must be conducted by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) into this matter, and I urge the Sheriff’s Department to immediately and fully cooperate with this OIG independent investigation," Ridley-Thomas said in a statement.

Guardado was working as a security guard at an auto body shop in Gardena, his family said, when he was killed. But authorities said he was carrying a gun and not wearing a uniform.

Capt. Kent Wegener, who heads the homicide bureau, said deputies initially saw Guardado talking to someone in a car outside a business. Guardado “looked to the deputies” and “produced a gun” before running away, Wegener said at a news conference Saturday.

The deputies chased Guardado toward the back of the building, where where he was shot six times, Wegener said. He died at the scene.

Guardado's family said he was shot in the back. Wegener said autopsy results will determine where he was shot.

Investigators said they recovered a modified .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol at the scene. It had no markings or serial number and had not been fired, according to Wegener.

But Jennifer Guardado said on Friday that her brother did not carry weapons.

"They're not going to kill an innocent person and get away with it," she told The Associated Press. "There will be justice in this world."

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva promised to leave “no stone unturned” in the ongoing investigation. Surveillance cameras are being examined, and an autopsy will be performed in the coming days, he said.

“Shootings are thoroughly investigated,” he said Saturday. “It's a deliberative process that can sometimes be maddeningly slow.”

Andrew Haney, who manages a shop where race cars are built, said Guardado was helping with security Thursday evening when officers approached. Haney said he hired Guardado because the business was having trouble with people tagging the building.

Guardado "was not only a coworker, but he was a good friend," Haney said. "Imagine this was your friend, your brother. ... It’s just messed up, all the way messed up."

"The kid was a hard worker," Haney added.

Guardado’s death comes at a time of heightened tensions between people of color, particularly Blacks and Latinos, and law enforcement agencies. Villanueva was criticized recently for reinstating deputies who had been fired for lying or using unreasonable force. He has refused to publicly release misconduct records, the Los Angeles Times reported.

On Saturday, Villanueva acknowledged the friction between his department and residents, but warned that misinformation about Guardado’s death was spreading.

“It doesn’t serve the family well, it doesn’t serve the community well, and it just drives this whole conspiracy cycle,” he said. “Those people just need to slow down, stop, wait until the investigation runs its course.”

He called rumors that Guardado was “executed” by sheriff’s deputies “nonsense” and asked for patience as his department continues to investigate.

“We can’t paint with a broad brush an entire profession,” he said, referring to growing anti-police sentiment since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

“There’s going to be mistakes made, there’s going to be bad things that happen, criminal conduct in every single profession, every single walk of life, and we have to hold people accountable for when they cross the line,” Villanueva said.