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Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed 18-year-old in 2020 won’t be charged, district attorney says

<i>Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News/Getty Images</i><br/>Pictures
MediaNews Group via Getty Images
Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News/Getty Images
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By Taylor Romine, CNN

A former sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot 18-year-old Andrés Guardado almost three years ago will not be charged, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Friday.

Guardado was killed in June 2020, after two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies pursued him after he allegedly displayed a handgun, looked at the deputies and ran away from an auto body shop in the city of Gardena, which is about 13 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles, officials said at the time of the shooting.

Attorneys representing the Guardado family have disputed those claims.

Deputy Miguel Vega shot Guardado in the back five times, according to both a family autopsy and the county coroner’s office.

Guardado, who was Latino, was killed against the backdrop of social and political unrest that was sparked after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a White police officer in Minneapolis. Floyd’s murder led to national and global protests, decrying the racial injustice Black Americans and other communities of color face in police encounters.

The district attorney’s office decided there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Vega did not fire in lawful self-defense,” according to a memorandum the district attorney’s office shared with CNN.

The document, dated Friday, says there are no first-hand accounts of what happened when the deputy shot Guardado “except Vega’s own statements,” and there is no surveillance video because the cameras weren’t working.

Former Deputy Christopher Hernandez, Vega’s partner, who was present at the time of Guardado’s death, also provided an account of the moments leading up to his death but had an obstructed view of the shooting, according to the document.

“My heart goes out to the Guardado family,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “Nothing that my office can do will mitigate the unimaginable pain that those that knew and loved Andres must be feeling.”

“This decision doesn’t validate the actions of these officers. They have a troubling background of misconduct and that was thoroughly considered. Sadly, at the end of the day we do not believe that there is enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

Vega’s attorney, Adam Marangell, said, “We are relieved the District Attorney objectively viewed the facts of this tragic case.”

Guardado family attorney Nicholas Yoka said the parents still believe deputies had no justifiable reason for shooting their son and they are deeply disappointed with the prosecutor’s decision.

“Sheriff’s Department officials knew these deputies were unfit to be on the streets, or serve our communities, yet they were not timely disciplined or removed from their positions,” Yoka added. “Cristobal and Elisa will forever be devastated by the loss of their son.”

A statement from the sheriff’s department said the shooting was tragic for everyone involved and their hearts went out to the family.

$8 million settlement with family

In November 2022, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an $8 million settlement with Guardado’s parents regarding a wrongful death lawsuit filed in his death.

“While the settlement reached with the County of Los Angeles brings closure to more than two years of the civil lawsuit, it does not bring with it peace to our family or justice for our son, Andrés,” Cristobal Guardado said in a written statement announcing the settlement.

On Thursday, Vega and Hernandez were federally charged for allegedly unlawfully detaining and violating the civil rights of a 23-year-old man in a separate incident in April 2020.

Marangell, Vega’s attorney, didn’t comment on the federal case in an email to CNN. CNN has reached out to Hernandez’s attorney and has not heard back. The US Attorney’s office told CNN both pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include conspiracy, deprivation of rights under color of law, witness tampering, and falsification of records.

Neither of the men still work for the department, the sheriff’s department said, citing an internal investigation into the federal allegations. The department said it cooperated with federal authorities in their investigation that led to the indictment.

Friday’s statement from the sheriff’s department also noted that with the district attorney’s decision completed in the Guardado shooting, the internal affairs bureau will complete its review and send its findings to the committee that determines disciplinary actions for sheriff’s deputies.

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