COMPTON — A coroner’s inquest into the June shooting death of Andres Guardado upheld the original conclusion of the county’s medical examiner that Guardado’s death was a homicide.
The inquest, the first in Los Angeles County in more than 30 years, concluded that “the medical cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds.” It inferred “the manner of death was by the hands of another person other than by accident,” according to a four-page report written by retired Judge Candace D. Cooper, who conducted the inquest Nov. 30.
Guardado was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies June 18 after he ran away from an auto body shop located in the unincorporated area between the cities of Compton and Gardena.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Guardado was talking to two girls outside the shop when he was approached by the deputies. He reportedly brandished a handgun before fleeing. He was shot five times in the back.
According to the sheriff’s department, the auto body shop had been the source of 23 police calls over a five-year period.
The sheriff’s department initially put a hold on the coroner’s report, prompting Guardado’s family to conduct an independent autopsy, which found Guardado was shot five times in the back. The findings by the county coroner’s office echoed the independent autopsy’s findings.
On Nov. 10, the county coroner’s officer called for the inquest “in the interest of public transparency,” after questions arose about excessive force. The inquest was held on Nov. 30. The deputy who reportedly fired the fatal shots, Miguel Vega didn’t appear at the inquest, sending a statement that said “that if he were to appear and be questioned at the inquest, he would assert his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.”
Other deputies called to testify at the inquest also asserted their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination and refused to testify.
In December, the sheriff’s department announced that Vega had been removed from active duty regarding an investigation not related to the shooting. He reportedly has not returned to duty.
U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Nanette Barragan called for an investigation by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who declined to intervene.
State Sen. Steve Bradford, who represents the area, said he will reintroduce Senate Bill 731 in the new new legislative session, which seeks to eliminate certain immunity provisions for peace officers.
SB 731, the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2020, would create a statewide process to automatically revoke the certification of a peace officer following the conviction of certain serious crimes or termination of employment due to specified misconduct.
“This is an important moment for the country as well as for California,” Bradford said. “Our criminal justice system must be fundamentally built with equity and accountability in mind. It is unacceptable that a cycle of unanswered injustices exists, where officers fired for misconduct are rehired by another department, and very few are ever held accountable.”
The bill would make California a leading example for effective and comprehensive police officer accountability, he added.
The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s office has scheduled a second inquest into the fatal shooting of Fred Williams III, which will take place on January 28.
Williams was shot in the back by sheriff’s deputies on Oct. 16 after he was alleged to have been displaying a gun at a local park in the unincorporated area of Willowbrook.
The shooting was caught on body cameras worn by deputies that showed Williams with a gun while attempting to jump a brick wall.
In a statement, the Sheriff’s Department said it welcomed the investigation.
“We enthusiastically support the decision by the medical examiner-corner to conduct an inquest into the shooting death of Mr. Fred Williams and look forward to the findings,” the department said. “Sheriff Alex Villanueva is committed to transparency and accountability and has been an advocate of utilizing the medical examiner-[coroner] inquest process in order to determine manner and cause of death.”
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.