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Inquest Into Andres Guardado Killing Ends Without Hearing From The Deputy Who Shot Him

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The coroner's office inquest into the death of 18-year-old Andres Guardado has confirmed he was shot multiple times and killed in Gardena last June. The retired justice hearing the case closed the inquest without hearing from the deputies involved or two detectives who investigated.

The findings by retired justice Candace Cooper mention that Guardado's death was not an accident and came "by the hands of another."

Miguel Vega, the deputy who shot Guardado, did not testify at the inquest. At the start of the hearing last November, Vega said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Vega's partner, Chris Hernandez, said he would invoke the Fifth if called to testify, and two detectives called to testify did invoke the constitutional protection.

Cooper said she decided not to call any more witnesses or test the Fifth Amendment claims because she already had enough evidence to make her findings.

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Cooper's findings did not refer to the locations of Guardado's wounds.

A private autopsy requested by the family and the official one released by the coroner — over objections from the sheriff — found that Guardado was shot five times in the back while he was lying on the ground.

Vega's lawyer claimed Guardado had been reaching for a gun he had dropped nearby. Guardado's family disputes that, and has filed a wrongful death suit against the county.

The findings "confirmed what we knew all along," Cristobal and Elisa Guardado said in a statement released by the family's attorneys:

"We now call upon District Attorney Gascón to do what the Sheriff's Department has not, and that is to take action and hold these deputies accountable for their criminal actions ... Our family will not rest until we have justice for Andres."

Vega is off the streets after being relieved of duty in December, though not for shooting Guardado. He and Hernandez — who was also relieved of duty — are under investigation for an incident last April in which Vega crashed his patrol vehicle, allegedly while chasing a teen on a bicycle in an alley while a man they had detained under questionable circumstances was in the back seat,
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according to the Los Angeles Times.

The man has sued, accusing the deputies of false arrest and a coverup.

As the Times notes, the department did not investigate the April incident until a few days after Vega killed Guardado.

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