LASD captain under fire for comments that 18-year-old shot 5 times in the back by deputy 'CHOSE his fate'

Captain John Burcher was using his personal Facebook account and replying to a local news story posted on Facebook about the case of Andres Guardado.

ByJovana Lara and Lisa Bartley KABC logo
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
LASD Captain: Andres Guardado 'CHOSE his fate'
LASD Captain and Sheriff Alex Villanueva's chief of staff is facing criticism for comments he made on Facebook, including that 18-year-old Andres Guardado, who was shot 5 times in the back, "CHOSE his fate."

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva's chief of staff is under fire for comments he made on Facebook about the case of Andres Guardado, the 18-year-old shot in the back five times by a deputy in Gardena last month.

Captain John Burcher wrote, among other things, that Guardado "CHOSE his fate."

Burcher was using his personal Facebook account and replying to a local news story posted on Facebook about the Guardado case.

He wrote, "Why so much coverage over Guardado? What about Isabella Cortes and Patricia Alotorre? Why does this guy, who CHOSE his destiny get so much coverage from you, but the two slain, one raped and slain, 13 year old girls get NOTHING??"

Eyewitness News reached Captain Burcher briefly by phone. He confirms he made the comments and says he was trying to get more publicity for these other cases. He says his comments led to an argument on Facebook. Captain Burcher then declined to comment any further.

"You're an idiot," he wrote to a commenter on Facebook. "Read the facts you moron. Stop it and shut up."

To another Facebook commenter he wrote: "Yes... sorry, your life does not matter more than mine does, you racist (EXPLETIVE.) STFU."

The results of an official autopsy confirm that 18-year-old Andres Guardado was shot in the back five times in a confrontation with Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies in Gardena.

Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman says Captain Burcher's comments are troubling.

"These latest statements by the Sheriff's Chief of Staff give reasonable observers cause to believe that the Guardado investigation has been prejudged," Huntsman tells Eyewitness News.

In a statement, the LASD says, "The Department is aware of the allegations. We are conducting an inquiry into the matter which could lead to an administrative investigation. We cannot comment further at this point."

At a press conference last week about the Guardado case, Sheriff Villanueva promised a thorough and transparent investigation, but told reporters that it would be inappropriate to give his opinion before the investigation is complete.

"I, as Sheriff, cannot give you an opinion on a deputy-involved shooting until all the facts are documented and presented," said Sheriff Villanueva.

The family of Andres Guardado says they are being stonewalled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. They want information and they say they aren't getting anywhere.

Eyewitness News tracked down the Facebook commenter who Captain Burcher called a "racist (EXPLETIVE.)"

"Yeah, if he's willing to share these opinions publicly, I can only imagine how his opinions pretty much form the way he works," the commenter told Eyewitness News.

Inspector General Max Huntsman says his request for video and documents related to the Guardado investigation has been refused. In a letter obtained by Eyewitness News, the LASD told Huntsman that his participation "is premature" and that his office will have access to the case after the criminal investigation is complete.

Huntsman says this is the latest in a string of incidents that point to what he calls "a willful disobedience to state and local laws on civilian oversight."

"What you have is a law enforcement agency deciding whether or not they're going to follow the laws and picking which ones they like and don't like," says Huntsman. "And, surprisingly, the ones they don't like are the ones that require them to behave appropriately."

An attorney for Deputy Miguel Vega, who shot Andres Guardado, told Eyewitness News that his client was interviewed by LASD investigators on Monday.

"During this interview he made clear that he did everything possible that night to avoid firing his weapon, including issuing clear and repeated commands to 'not reach for the gun,'" attorney Adam Marangell said in a statement.

"Deputy Vega went to work that day to protect the citizens of the community and, unfortunately, was forced to take action which resulted in a loss of life."