Deputies won’t face charges in deaths of two teens

Wave Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — Sheriff’s deputies involved in two highly controversial deadly shootings in 2018 and 2020 will not face criminal charges, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

In separate statements issued April 14, District Attorney George Gascón said prosecutors could not prove criminal wrongdoing beyond a reasonable doubt in the 2018 killing of 16-year-old Anthony Weber in the Westmont area of South Los Angeles and the 2020 killing of 18-year-old Andres Guardado in Gardena.

Both shootings sparked weeks of protests and calls for prosecution of the deputies involved.

In the case of Guardado, Gascón said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute former Deputy Miguel Vega in Guardado’s June 2020 death. Authorities said Guardado was shot five times in the back.

Andres Guardado

“My heart goes out to the Guardado family,” Gascón said in a statement. “Nothing that my office can do will mitigate the unimaginable pain that those that knew and loved Andres must be feeling. 

“This decision doesn’t validate the actions of these officers. They have a troubling background of misconduct and that was thoroughly considered. Sadly, at the end of the day we do not believe that there is enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Prosecutors indicated that Vega was the only witness to the shooting of Guardado, and no surveillance footage was available, facts that would have made it difficult for a guilty verdict to be reached.

Guardado was shot after running from authorities while working as an informal security guard at an auto shop near Gardena.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said at the time that the deputy and his partner, Chris Hernandez, reported that they saw Guardado “produce a handgun” and flee as they approached. Vega said he fired after Guardado allegedly reached for the deputy’s gun as Vega was attempting to handcuff him.

Sheriff’s officials said a .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol with no serial number and an illegal extended magazine loaded with 13 rounds was recovered at the scene. They also said there is no evidence Guardado fired any shots.

In a separate case, Vega and Hernandez were charged in a federal indictment unsealed April 13 with conspiracy, witness tampering, falsification of records and depriving a 24-year-old man of his civil rights in an incident that took place two months before Guardado’s killing.

Gascón also cited a lack of evidence in deciding not to pursue any charges against deputies involved in the Feb. 4, 2018, shooting of Weber.

“The death of any child is always a tragedy. Anthony Weber’s death is no different,” Gascón said in a statement. “He was a 16-year-old when he tragically was killed by a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy. The evaluation of these cases is extremely difficult. We reviewed all available evidence, including evidence received as recently as January of this year.

“After our review was done, our team concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove that the shooting of Anthony Weber was unlawful. We have an obligation only to charge cases that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. My deepest sympathies go out to Anthony’s family and all those who knew him.”

Los Angeles County reached a $3.75 million settlement with Weber’s family in 2019. 

Weber was shot by Deputy Gregory Van Hoesen during a foot chase near the 1200 block of 107th Street. Deputies said they spotted a handgun tucked into the teen’s pants and that he reached for it before one of the lawmen, fearing for his life, fired 13 shots.

Investigators did not recover a weapon at the scene, but authorities said they believed the gun might have been picked up by someone in the crowd that formed in the aftermath of the shooting. A gun believed to belong to the youth and matching a description provided by one of the deputies was later retrieved in the search of the residence of an alleged gang associate, according to a summary provided to the board by the Sheriff’s Department.

A lawyer representing Anthony’s parents and daughter in the lawsuit filed in May 2018 in Los Angeles federal court insisted that the youth was unarmed.

The family’s lawsuit also alleged that as the teenager bled profusely, deputies failed to call for medical help in a timely manner or render medical aid, but sheriff’s officials countered that deputies immediately did so.

Both shootings were highly controversial at the time. 

“The fact that Weber did not have a gun casts serious doubt on the report by the Sheriff’s Department on Weber’s killing,” Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson said about the Weber shooting.

U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Nanette Barragan were among those calling for an independent investigation into Guardado’s death.“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.Gascón’s office did file charges April 17 against two Torrance police officers in connection with the 2018 shooting death of a Black man who was found sitting inside a car that had been reported stolen.

Officer Matthew Concannon, 37, and former Officer Anthony Chavez, 34, face voluntary manslaughter charges in the killing of Christopher DeAndre Mitchell.

Former District Attorney Jackie Lacey had declined to file charges against the officers, saying they were justified in using deadly force against Mitchell on Dec. 9, 2018.

Gascón — who vowed during his campaign to take a harder look at law enforcement use-of-force cases — re-opened the investigation when he took office.

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