COMPTON — The killing of 18-year-old Andres Guardado by a sheriff’s deputy in unincorporated West Compton near Gardena June 18 sparked a protest June 21 against law enforcement violence, which turned chaotic when deputies fired pepper balls and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, ultimately making seven arrests.
The protest began peacefully as more than 100 people began marching down West Redondo Beach Boulevard from the site of the shooting to the Compton Sheriff’s Station.
As they marched, people in cars threw up their fists in solidarity and honked horns, the Los Angeles Times reported. Protesters wore masks and held signs saying, “Where’s the footage?” and “He ran because he was scared.” It was one of several similar protests held since the shooting.
Demonstrator Daniel Leiva rhetorically asked ABC7, “When will the violence end? Will I be next?”
At the Compton Sheriff’s Station, demonstrators squared off against deputies who were blocking the doors of the station. What provoked the use of less-than-lethal force by the deputies was unclear, but they began firing pepper balls and rubber bullets into the crowd, which sent people running in all directions, according to media reports from the scene.
The deputies then declared the demonstration an “unlawful assembly,” which resulted in the arrests of seven people for misdemeanors.
“Six of the people were arrested for unlawful assembly and one was jailed for resisting an officer,” Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez told City News Service. No injuries were immediately reported.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department publicly stated that Guardado was carrying an unregistered handgun with an illegal ammunition magazine, and was not wearing clothing identifying himself as a security guard.
The update from sheriff’s officials came June 20 after U.S. Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-Los Angeles, and Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, called upon California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to conduct a full investigation into the shooting.
“Another day, and another Black or brown kid has been shot in the by police,” Barragan and Waters said in a joint statement. “These killings must stop. … We demand answers and call for an independent investigation in this tragic death. There must be full transparency so the public can trust the investigation and we know we are getting the truth.
“Andres Guardado is the latest young man of color killed by police gunfire. He was shot in the back. The officers involved did not wear body cameras,” the legislators wrote.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva pushed back against the idea of an independent investigation at a press conference later in the day, saying the Attorney General’s Office did not have the resources to investigate every shooting. He also told reporters he had been asking for body cameras since December 2018, and blamed the delay on a lack of support from the county Board of Supervisors.
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas responded to the apparent reticence of Villanueva to join in a call for an independent investigation.
“An independent investigation is not premature,” Ridley-Thomas said in a tweet. “It is essential now in the interest of good faith and public trust.”
In a second tweet, Ridley-Thomas took direct aim at Villanueva.
“Reporters should ask the sheriff why he continues to blame the Board of Supervisors for his dereliction,” Ridley-Thomas wrote. “Read the Inspector General’s report — oig.lacounty.gov — on body worn cameras for the truth.”
Villanueva was quick to respond. On Twitter he wrote, “Facts don’t lie. You [Ridley-Thomas] alone authored a motion to delay the body worn camera project for six months. You also sold out undocumented inmates to the Trump administration for $13.7 million from 2014-2018. Care to explain?”
Homicide Capt. Kent Wegener told reporters that Guardado was talking with someone in a car when two deputies on patrol arrived at 5:52 p.m. June 18 at the Freeway Body Shop, in the 400 block of West Redondo Beach Boulevard, near Figueroa Street.
“Guardado reportedly looked toward the deputies, produced a handgun and ran southbound down the driveway of the business,” Wegener said. Deputies chased and caught up with him behind the business, where one deputy fired six shots at him, striking him in the upper body, he said. Family and friends told reporters that Guardado was shot in the back.
Either way, Guardado was pronounced dead at the scene and an autopsyremained pending, Wegener said.
So far, the investigation has revealed that while Guardado was reportedly working as a security guard at the business, his weapon was an unregistered .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol with a polymer frame and no serial number, a Smith & Wesson slide and prohibited 15-round Glock magazine fully loaded, Wegener said.
He was not wearing a uniform or any clothing identifying him as asecurity guard and would have had to be 21 years old to be a state-licensed armed security guard, Wegener said. In addition, there was no record that he had any security guard license through the California Department of Consumer Affairs, nor did he have a gun belt, holster or spare magazine.
Investigators have yet to find video of the shooting, but search warrants were served to seize security cameras from nearby business and thus far, have not been found to contain footage of the shooting. Two of the cameras had ports for SD cards but no cards, he said. A search warrant was also served on a third-party alarm company for Internet-based footage.
The Guardado shooting came 10 days after a man was found in the driveway of the same business, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, and a blood trail into the building, which led investigators to get a search warrant that revealed narcotics and a shotgun, Wegener said. The victim survived and the shooting remained under investigation.
“Far too often, young brown and Black men are caught up in a `Shoot first, ask questions later’ scenario with police officers,” Barragan and Waters wrote. “We will not stand for it whether it is in Atlanta, or like this case, in South Los Angeles.
“Change must come now. For weeks, the American people and the world have marched to demand accountability, put an end to aggressive and violent police tactics and equal justice for Black and brown communities. We must show them their pleas are being heard. Now. That begins with making sure we get justice for Andres Guardado.|”