LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to ask the coroner’s office to conduct an inquest into the death of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, who was fatally shot by a L.A. County sheriff’s deputy June 18.
The board also included a provision that would allow the coroner’s office to subpoena information to create a record of investigative steps taken by the sheriff’s department related to the cause and circumstances of Guardado’s death.
Supervisors also indicated their readiness to file suit against the sheriff’s department for violating state law by failing to allow oversight of law enforcement investigations and asked the board’s lead lawyer to report back on the feasibility of such a suit within 10 days.
The vote came the day after attorneys for Guardado’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit naming the county, the sheriff’s department and the two deputies involved in the teen’s shooting death — Miguel Vega and Chris Hernandez — alleging that the deputies not only used unreasonable and excessive force, but were possibly acting in connection with members of one or more LASD gangs of which they may be affiliated.
According to attorneys for the Guardado family, the complaint seeks to hold the defendants accountable for allegedly violating various civil rights as well as the California Bane Act.
“By filing this lawsuit, we are not only committing to expose the truth surrounding the unjustified shooting of Andres Guardado, but seeking to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again to anyone in our communities,” Nicholas Yoka, attorney for the family, said. “The Guardado family deserves their day in court and they are now taking the first step toward getting justice for the death of their son at the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”
The suit alleges that Vega and Hernandez arrived at Guardado’s place of employment and immediately drew their weapons and chased the teen down an alleyway before Vega discharged his firearm “without provocation and with conscious disregard,” striking Guardado five times in the back.
The sheriff’s department has previously said that Guardado flashed a gun at the deputies when they arrived at the auto shop and again in the alleyway before the shooting, though the family has vehemently denied that Guardado was armed.
The complaint further alleges that the deputies involved were unfit to be on duty since they “had a history of improper uses of unjustified excessive force, improper discharging of their firearms, bad traffic and pedestrian stops, failing to follow proper procedures, making false statements during investigations, and other improper conduct.”
Plaintiffs also alleged that LASD, the county and Sheriff Alex Villanueva knew about deputy gangs within the department and that the deputies involved “had possible affiliations with at least one of these Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department gangs including, but not limited to, the gangs known as the Executioners and/or the 3,000 Boys.”
In a statement, Vega’s attorney said the lawsuit was filled with “reckless and erroneous allegations and appears to be a calculated effort to inflame and distort public perception against the sheriff’s department generally and deputy Vega specifically.”
“Deputy Vega categorically denies any wrongdoing and looks forward to the actual facts of this matter being made public,” the statement continued. “Facts which include Mr. Guardado illegally possessing an unregistered firearm, fleeing from two uniformed deputies, and then disobeying multiple commands. … Deputy Vega went to work that day to protect the citizens of the community and, unfortunately, was forced to take actions that resulted in a loss of life.”
The suit seeks general, economic and statutory damages — including funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support and attorney fees — as well as punitive damages against the individual defendants.
“The blood of Andres Guardado lays not only on the hands of Deputy Miguel Vega, but on every member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who has dismissed their oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California,” Adam Shea, attorney for the Guardado family, said. “When the facts are fully disclosed, we are confident that a jury will deliver justice that reflects how grossly the Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County officials have failed Andres, his family and the people of the communities they have sworn to serve.”
A request for comment from the sheriff’s department was not immediately returned.