LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County will conduct an inquest into the death of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, who was shot and killed June 18 by an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy.
The county coroner’s office Tuesday appointed retired Court of Appeals Justice Candace Cooper — who also served as a Superior and Municipal Court judge and as a justice on the California Court of Appeals — to conduct the inquest, which will begin Nov. 30.
It is the first inquest in L.A. County in more than 30 years.
The inquest will be public and Cooper, as the hearing officer, will hear the testimony then make findings related to the cause and manner of death before forwarding her decision and recommendation to the coroner’s office.
“The Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner is committed to transparency and providing the residents of Los Angeles County an independent assessment of its findings in this case,” said Dr. Jonathan Lucas, the county’s chief medical examiner-coroner. “An inquest ensures that our residents will have an independent review of all the evidence and findings of our office and of the cause and manner of death of Mr. Guardado.”
In September, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ask to coroner’s office to conduct an inquest into Guardado’s death. At the time, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended using the coroner’s subpoena power to create a record of investigative steps taken by the sheriff’s department related to the cause and circumstances of the shooting death.
“For far too long we have accepted the status quo — we haven’t sufficiently challenged law enforcement’s incessant demands that investigations remain shrouded in secrecy,” he said. “This board must not sit by and allow the county’s law enforcement department to entrench itself in traditional patterns of behavior that profoundly harm not only vulnerable communities but the entire justice system.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva has consistently pushed back against the board’s allegations that he does not favor transparency and challenged the board’s authority to request an inquest.
“Transparency cannot come at the expense of integrity in any criminal investigation,” he said. “We do hold our employees accountable, so any suggestion or inference that we cannot hold ourselves accountable to the rule of law is factually false.”
Guardado was fatally shot near a Gardena auto body shop while running away from two deputies who alleged the teen was reaching for a gun, a characterization that has been denied by the teen’s family.