In Defiance of Sheriff, LA Coroner Releases Autopsy Report of Man Shot by Police

Andres Guardado (Family photo)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A security guard killed by Los Angeles County officers last month was shot five times in the back according to the LA County Coroner’s autopsy report released Friday. 

Andres Guardado, 18, was shot while working as a security guard at an auto body shop in the city of Gardena in LA County on June 18. Guardado was standing on a sidewalk outside the business talking to a woman when officers on patrol approached them and, according to officers, Guardado ran.

Officers said they chased Guardado, ordered him to the ground and to not reach for his waistband, but he did and that’s when they shot him.

A 9mm handgun used by an officer was collected as evidence at the scene along with a separate gun found near Guardado. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system, according to the coroner’s report, and Guardado was wounded in his back, arms and had abrasions near his forehead. Guardado’s family commissioned an independent autopsy that arrived at the same conclusion.

On Friday, LA County Coroner Dr. Jonathan Lucas said in a statement he gave the situation careful thought and deliberation before releasing the autopsy report.

“In doing so, I have given careful consideration to the major variables in this case – supporting the administration of justice, as well as the public’s right to know,” said Lucas. “I do not believe that these are mutually exclusive ideals. Both are important, particularly amid the ongoing national discussion about race, policing and civil rights.”

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva called the release of the official autopsy report unprecedented and has the “potential to jeopardize the investigation” and any other future criminal charges.

“This move will now force the Sheriff’s Department to use court orders to enforce security holds that exist for only one purpose – to prevent tainting witness testimony prior to interviews,” said Villanueva in a statement. “Dr. Lucas has acknowledged succumbing to pressure from the Board of Supervisors and the Office of Inspector General, and has now made the astonishing admission that he sacrificed the integrity of the investigation in a bid to satisfy public curiosity.”

Villanueva specifically named LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for a coordinated release of the autopsy report that demonstrates a “poor grasp” of the investigation procedure and the powers of the appointed Inspector General.

“As Sheriff of Los Angeles County, I find it deeply troubling that an elected supervisor would use the authority of his office to bully the coroner and sow mistrust of law enforcement in the community,” said Villanueva. “While these apparent goals may satisfy Supervisor Ridley Thomas’ narrow political aspirations, it does nothing to advance the public’s interest.”

The county’s Inspector General oversees the policies and operations of the sheriff’s department and was created by the county supervisors in 2014.

Earlier in the day, Ridley-Thomas applauded the release of the autopsy report as “upholding the autonomy and integrity” of the coroner’s office despite efforts to keep the report private.

“The fact that the Inspector General still has not received documents pertaining to the investigation that were requested over two weeks ago is deeply troubling,” said Ridley-Thomas in a statement. “The community deserves to know the facts. This is a matter of public interest and public trust.”

In response to Villanueva, Ridley-Thomas said Lucas acted properly to release the report and the sheriff should work with the county’s Office of the Inspector General. 

“The Medical Examiner-Coroner utilized his professional expertise and his independent authority in releasing the autopsy report of Andres Guardado,” said Ridley-Thomas in a statement. “I do not believe the Sheriff’s berating of the Medical Examiner is either proper or professional. Once again, I urge the Sheriff to start cooperating with the OIG to ensure a much-needed independent investigation can take place.”

The feud between LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and LA County’s Board of Supervisors has played out for months as the elected body cut the sheriff’s department budget earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Guardado’s death sparked outrage in LA County just as protesters across the country marched and demanded accountability from officer-involved shootings and police brutality against communities of color.

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