Andres Guardado case: Independent autopsy reveals 18-year-old was shot 5 times in back by sheriff's deputies

Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he has reached out to the state attorney general amid calls for an independent investigation into the death of Andres Guardado.
GARDENA, Calif. (KABC) -- The results of an independent autopsy on Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old who was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies in Gardena, were revealed on Wednesday.

The autopsy conducted for Guardado's family finds that he was shot five times in the back and that he did not have drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death.

Last month, lawyers for Guardado's family said that the L.A. County Sheriff's Department has put a "security hold" on the autopsy results from the county medical examiner. The family then requested the independent autopsy, which was completed on June 18.

The family's lawyers said the results prove that the shooting was "without a doubt, the result of unjustified police violence against an innocent young man."

"Andres was not facing deputies so he should not have been shot, he should not have been killed and the sheriff's department is just trying to put the kibosh on this information so that nobody knows what really happened," said the family's attorney Adam Shea.

An attorney for the deputy who fired his weapon, Miguel Vega, says the shooting was made in self-defense when Guardado reached for a gun on the ground.

The attorney says Guardado was armed with a gun and ran from two deputies who chased him. When Vega caught up to him, Guardado initially complied with commands to lay on the ground, the attorney said.

"Deputy Vega then holstered his weapon and began approaching Mr. Guardado to immediately apply handcuffs and effectuate an arrest, clearly and repeatedly stating, 'Don't reach for the gun,'" according to the attorney's statement.

"Suddenly and in direct contravention to these commands, Mr. Guardado clearly and unmistakably tried to grab the firearm. At this point, Deputy Vega had no choice but to redraw his weapon and fire in self-defense."

Sheriff Alex Villanueva previously said he has reached out to the state attorney general amid calls for an independent investigation into the death of Guardado. He's also said he will release surveillance video once the investigation is over. However, sheriff's Commander Chris Marks said Wednesday that cameras seized at the scene did not contain footage of the shooting itself.

"I want to give my condolences to the Guardado family," Villanueva said at an afternoon press conference. "This is still an ongoing investigation, and no matter what the outcome is, I know as a father, despite whatever the facts may be that arise from this investigation, they've lost a son. So my heart goes out to them."

Marks said two deputies gave chase on foot before the shooting. The one who did not fire his weapon has been interviewed by investigators, while the other deputy who shot Guardado has not been interviewed.

The commander said the latter deputy is scheduled to speak with detectives within a week. "We're on his timetable," Marks said, noting that the statement given would be voluntary, not compelled because of the deputy's Fifth Amendment rights.

Asked how many shots were fired in the incident, Marks said six rounds were accounted for.

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Shea said he has reached out to the department to get more information but has not been able to.

"I said 'Look, sit down with us. Let the coroner sit down with us and go over the actual physical exam of the autopsy with the family. And the sheriff's department is not letting them do it because they know this was an unjustified shooting," Shea said. "They know this is a bad look for the sheriff's department and they're trying to hide it."

Last month, sheriff's deputies and protesters clashed during a demonstration in Compton over the death of Guardado.

The sheriff's department made seven arrests, including six for unlawful assembly. They used flash-bangs, pepper balls and smoke grenades, saying objects were thrown at deputies.

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Deputies shot and killed Guardado on June 18 after they say he pulled out a gun and ran from deputies on patrol in the 400 block of Redondo Beach Boulevard.

At the Wednesday press conference, Marks said a real handgun -- not a toy gun -- was recovered at the scene, despite stories to the contrary on social media.

Guardado's family said he was working as a security guard in the area at the time of the shooting, but authorities say he was too young to be state licensed and did not have a uniform or badge.
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