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This Leaked Autopsy Appears To Contradict The LA Sheriff's Department's Version Of A Fatal Shooting

Anthony Vargas' mother Lisa (center) holds a banner calling for justice for her son, who was killed by L.A. County sheriff's deputies in August 2018. (Frank Stoltze/LAist)
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Diagrams from an autopsy show two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies shot a man 13 times from behind last August, apparently contradicting the department's account of the confrontation that left 21-year-old Anthony Vargas dead.

A department spokesman at the time said Vargas, who allegedly had a gun in his hand, was facing one deputy and had his back to the other when both deputies opened fire.

Vargas' family attorney Humberto Guizar said he obtained part of the autopsy report earlier this week. It has not been released publicly because of an ongoing investigation into the shooting.

The diagrams indicated that Vargas had been shot twice in the back of the head, 10 times in the back and once in the back of his right arm. "This is a matter of public concern," Guizar told reporters Thursday. He accused the deputies of a "gangland style" shooting.

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"I will not stop fighting for my son," said Lisa Vargas. She said she was heartbroken when she found out her son was shot in the back.

Lisa Vargas filed a wrongful death lawsuit in March against the county and the deputies who shot her son.

"I am not afraid," she said. "I will continue, we will continue to rally, we will continue to put his name out there until justice is served."

The sheriff's department issued a statement Thursday reiterating its condolences to Vargas' family, while saying it can't comment further at this time due to the lawsuit and an ongoing investigation of the case.

The department noted that it has presented the facts surrounding the incident to the District Attorney's office for independent review.

The statement said the review would be conducted through the DA's Crimes Against Peace Officers Section, but it will actually be conducted by the Justice System Integrity Division, which reviews all officer-involved shootings, according to DA spokesman Ricardo Santiago.

On Aug. 12, 2018, sheriff's deputies responded around 2 a.m. to a report that three men had robbed a man near the Nueva Maravilla Housing Community in East L.A.

Vargas ran and hid from deputies, ignored their orders and resisted their attempts to handcuff him before he pulled a gun from his waistband, Sheriff's Lt. Derrick Alfred said in the days after the shooting.

Two L.A. County sheriff's deputies fatally shot Anthony Vargas around 2 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2018 in this grassy area of the Nueva Maravilla Housing Community in East L.A. (Frank Stoltze/LAist)

The deputies got into a violent struggle with Vargas, during which one felt a gun in his waistband, according to Alfred. He said when Vargas started to stand up, the deputies saw a gun in his hand, and fearing he would shoot, opened fire.

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Each deputy fired eight shots, Alfred said, adding that Vargas was facing one deputy and had his back to the other. "He had wounds on various parts of his body," Alfred told the Los Angeles Times.

A loaded, semi-automatic .22-caliber pistol was found underneath Vargas' body, according to the department. The gun had not been fired.

Guizar and Vargas' family said Thursday he would never carry a gun, and had never been involved in any criminal activity. His mother said he led Bible study groups and worked in a church warehouse.

The department did not think Vargas was one of the original robbery suspects deputies were looking for.

Investigators put a security hold on the autopsy results a few days after the shooting, meaning the coroner cannot make the information public until the investigation is completed. When asked to release the full autopsy report, spokeswoman Sarah Ardalini told LAist the case is still on a security hold.