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Criminal Justice

DA Declines To Files Charges Against LA Sheriff’s Deputy Who Killed Andres Guardado

Hundreds of people spent their Father's Day marching from the auto body shop where 18-year-old Andres Guardado was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy last week to the Compton Sheriff's station were that deputy is based.
A sign held up at a Father's Day 2020 protest against Guardado's killing.
(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)
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L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón has decided against filing criminal charges against the sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot Andres Guardado in 2020, according to a declination letter obtained by LAist.

The letter states that “given the available evidence, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” Deputy Miguel Vega’s actions “were not because he honestly and reasonably feared for his life at the time he fired his pistol.”

The backstory

Sheriff’s investigators said Deputies Miguel Vega and Christopher Hernandez told them that they saw Guardado with a gun as he stood outside an auto body shop near Compton. When they tried to stop him, he ran down the shop’s driveway.

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The declination letter says that according to Vega, Guardado stopped, put the gun on the ground and lay face down, but as Vega went to handcuff him Guardado made a grab for the weapon. Vega opened fire. There were no witnesses to the shooting other than Vega.

There's also no video of the shooting; the incident occurred before Sheriff's deputies began wearing body cams, and there's no surveillance video of Vega opening fire. An autopsy found Guardado was shot five times in the back.

Why it matters

Police watchdogs had closely followed this case because it happened less than a month after the murder of George Floyd and sparked days of angry protests. They repeatedly had called on Gascón to file charges against Vega, and claimed the deputy unnecessarily killed Guardado as part of a ritual to join a deputy gang.

The FBI has also investigated the Guardado shooting but there so far have been no charges by federal prosecutors. Last fall the county paid $8 million to settle a wrongful death suit filed by Guardado's family.

Go deeper

Federal prosecutors have secured an indictment against Vega and Hernandez in another case involving witness tampering and the alleged false imprisonment of a skateboarder two months before the Guardado shooting.

Guardado’s family is “deeply disappointed” by Gascón’s decision, according to a statement from its attorney, Nicholas Yoka. It reiterated the family’s belief that Vega shot Guardado “for no justifiable reason,” and said the indictment for false imprisonment demonstrates that Vega and Hernandez should not have been in uniform on the day they encountered Guardado.

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