GARDENA, Calif. — An independent autopsy commissioned by the family of a Latino teen killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy last month has found that the 18-year-old was shot five times in the back as he ran away.
The results of Andres Guardado’s second autopsy echo the findings of the official autopsy, which Dr. Jonathan Lucas, chief medical examiner-coroner for Los Angeles County, released Friday in defiance of a “security hold” placed on the report by Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Each of the five bullets that struck Guardado caused fatal wounds, the official autopsy report states. Toxicology results show the teen had no drugs or alcohol in his system when he was killed.
Villanueva called the release of the autopsy report without his department’s consent “unprecedented” and said it “has the potential to jeopardize the investigation, the filing of the case and any possible future criminal or administrative proceedings.”
Guardado was working security at an auto body shop near Gardena just before 6 p.m. on June 18 when two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies from the Compton substation spotted him standing in front of the business talking to someone. Deputies said Guardado looked toward them, produced a handgun and ran up the driveway of the business.
A case report attached to the autopsy report indicates the deputies spotted the gun in Guardado’s waistband.
“Officers told decedent to get down and to not reach for his weapon,” the case report states. “The decedent reached to his waistband and officers shot at the decedent.”
Guardado was pronounced dead at the scene. A total of six shell casings were recovered from the driveway, according to the report.
The sheriff’s department has not identified the deputies involved, but attorneys for the men have identified them as Miguel Vega, who shot the teen, and Chris Hernandez, who did not fire his weapon, NBC News reported.
No body camera footage of the shooting exists. Villanueva said last month that Guardado’s killing underscored the need for the cameras.
Guardado’s family has expressed doubts about his alleged possession of a weapon, which authorities have described as a .45-caliber handgun with a polymer frame and a prohibited extended magazine loaded with 13 rounds. It had no markings or serial number, investigators said.
The teen is not believed to have fired the weapon at deputies and Adam Shea, an attorney representing his family, has said the claim Guardado was carrying a gun is “contrary to everything that the family and friends and co-workers know.
“We do not believe that he had a gun,” Shea said at a news conference, according to NBC News. “There was a gun at the scene. How and why that gun was there and who it belonged to is a question that needs to be answered.”
Guardado’s parents, Elisa and Cristobal Guardado, said in a statement that the independent autopsy confirmed their belief that their son’s killing was unjustified.
“Our son did not deserve to die this way,” they said in a statement obtained by NBC News. “Andres was a good boy. He was our son, and he had so much life ahead of him.”
Guardado, a student at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, was working two part-time security jobs to help support his family, according to loved ones. His death has prompted multiple protests, and county officials and U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Nanette Diaz Barragán, both of California, have demanded an independent investigation into the shooting.
Lucas defended his decision to release the autopsy report, saying in a statement that his office, which is independent of any law enforcement agency in Los Angeles County, has the discretion and authority to release information as it deems appropriate.
“After careful thought and deliberation, I am releasing the autopsy report of Andres Guardado Pineda,” Lucas said. “In doing so, I have given careful consideration to the major variables in this case – supporting the administration of justice, as well as the public’s right to know.
“I do not believe that these are mutually exclusive ideals. Both are important, particularly amid the ongoing national discussion about race, policing and civil rights. I believe that government can do its part by being more timely and more transparent in sharing information that the public demands and has a right to see.”
The official autopsy report shows that Guardado suffered five total gunshot wounds, all to the back. He had an additional two graze wounds on his forearms, indicating at least seven shots were fired.
“All five gunshot wounds are fatal,” the autopsy report states.
Read Andras Guardado’s autopsy report below.
One of the bullets traveled slightly downward through his body. The other four took an upward trajectory.
The report details the devastating internal damage each bullet caused.
“Gunshot wound #1,” which was numbered arbitrarily and not according to the order in which the shots were fired, entered Guardado’s left upper back and perforated his thoracic aorta, left lower lung, esophagus and heart before ricocheting off his inner sternum.
The slug was recovered from between the sternum and his heart, the report states.
The second bullet entered the teen’s right upper back and perforated the apex of his right upper lung before exiting just under his right clavicle. The third bullet also went through the lung and fractured two of his ribs.
Both the third and fourth bullets entered Guardado’s right mid-back and ended up in the same area of his chest, one of them exiting through his right nipple. The fourth bullet perforated his liver, diaphragm and lung and caused a third rib fracture.
The final gunshot wound was in the teen’s lower mid-back. The bullet punctured a vertebrae and went through his kidney before coming to rest in his liver, according to the report.
Along with the graze wounds on his arms, Guardado suffered several secondary, minor bullet fragment wounds. He also had abrasions on his forehead, presumably from when he fell to the pavement.
Dr. Kevin Young, the deputy medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, ruled Guardado’s death a homicide.
Shea praised Lucas’s decision to release the autopsy report, according to CBS Los Angeles. Shea said Villanueva’s office continues to “fail in fulfilling its promises of transparency and accountability, both to the Guardado family and to the public for which it serves.
“From the start, this investigation has been conducted in secrecy, with guarded intent to delay disclosure to the public and bury the truth about what happened in the moments before Andres’ life was taken,” Shea said in a statement. “What bureaucratic and procedural blockades will the sheriff’s department cite now to further delay justice for Andres and avoid coming forward with the truth? How long must the Guardado family wait for the department do the right thing?”
Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman, who is listed on the autopsy report as a witness to the procedure, also criticized Villanueva, saying the sheriff has repeatedly ignored requests for documents and video pertaining to the case.
“The sheriff’s department has failed to follow transparency and oversight laws,” Huntsman said, according to the CBS affiliate. “We have state law and county code that require cooperation with the Office of the Inspector General, which I run, to monitor a lot of things that happen in the sheriff’s department, including shooting investigations, and they refuse to follow that.”
The release of the autopsy report appears to have worsened tensions between Villanueva and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, whom the sheriff has previously referred to as the “five little kings.” The board, led by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, last month passed a motion demanding an independent probe of Guardado’s death.
Ridley-Thomas on Friday lauded the release of Guardado’s autopsy report.
“I commend the coroner for upholding the autonomy and integrity of his office by releasing the autopsy report of Andres Guardado, despite attempts to block its release,” the county supervisor tweeted. “It underscores the critical need for the Office of Inspector General to be able to conduct its fair and legally-mandated independent investigation into this matter without interference.”
Ridley-Thomas said it was “deeply troubling” that Huntsman has not received documents that were requested more than two weeks ago.
“The community deserves to know the facts. This is a matter of public interest and public trust,” Ridley-Thomas said.
Villanueva accused Ridley-Thomas of “unwittingly demonstrating a poor grasp of both the investigative responsibilities of the sheriff’s department and the lack of authority the politically-appointed inspector general has to interfere with and jeopardize the integrity of criminal investigations.”
“As sheriff of Los Angeles County, I find it deeply troubling that an elected supervisor would use the authority of his office to bully the coroner and sow mistrust of law enforcement in the community,” Villanueva said. “While these apparent goals may satisfy Supervisor Ridley Thomas’s narrow political aspirations, it does nothing to advance the public’s interest.”
The sheriff accused Lucas of making the “astonishing admission that he sacrificed the integrity of the investigation in a bid to satisfy public curiosity” and threatened to use court orders in the future to enforce security holds on investigatory reports.
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