Coroner releases autopsy on fatal shooting by LA deputy
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles County coroner on Friday released the autopsy report on an allegedly armed young man shot by a sheriff’s deputy that the Sheriff’s Department had requested remain confidential under a security hold.
Like the results of an independent autopsy released earlier this week by a family attorney, the official report showed Andres Guardado Pinedo, 18, was shot in the back five times.
“After careful thought and deliberation, I am releasing the autopsy report of Andres Guardado Pineda,” Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Jonathan Lucas said in a statement.
“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. 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,” he said.
Lucas said he believes government can be more timely and transparent in sharing information that the public has a right to see.
An attorney for Guardado’s family praised the medical examiner for “doing the right thing.”
“The findings of both autopsies are indisputable, and establish that Andres’ death was, without a doubt, the result of unjustified police violence against an innocent young man,” Adam Shea said in a statement.
But Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the release “has the potential to jeopardize the investigation, the filing of the case, and any possible future criminal or administrative proceedings.”
“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,” Villanueva said, adding that Lucas “has now made the astonishing admission that he sacrificed the integrity of the investigation in a bid to satisfy public curiosity.”
Unlike many counties where the sheriff is also officially the coroner, LA County’s Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner is independent of law enforcement agencies.
Guardado was shot on the evening of June 18 during a foot pursuit and a full autopsy was conducted June 22.
All five gunshot wounds were fatal and there were also graze wounds on the forearms as well as secondary fragment wounds, the report said.
“The cause of death is multiple gunshot wounds. The range of fire is unknown by autopsy. The manner of death is homicide,” said the report signed by deputy medical examiner Dr. Kevin Young.
The Sheriff’s Department has said the shooting occurred in an unincorporated area near the city of Gardena after two deputies on patrol spotted Guardado with a gun and he ran.
Authorities described the weapon as a loaded “ghost” gun that appeared to have been pieced together from different parts, lacked a serial number and had an illegal high-capacity magazine.
The department has not released its account of exactly how the shooting occurred but an attorney for the deputy who fired did give a narrative earlier this week.
The deputies have been identified by their lawyers as Miguel Vega, who fired his gun, and Chris Hernandez, who did not fire.
Vega’s attorney, Adam Marangell said in a statement that the deputies saw Guardado with a gun in his front waistband, and he ran from them down a driveway.
According to the account, Vega told Guardado to stop multiple times as he pulled the gun from his waistband and kept running.
Guardado then stopped, turned around, and raised both hands in the air while still holding the gun, then followed the deputies’ orders to put the gun on the ground and lay face-down, Marangell said.
The lawyer said the gun was still close to Guardado’s right hand. Vega holstered his own firearm and told Guardado “don’t reach for the gun” as he went to handcuff him.
Guardado suddenly “clearly and unmistakably” tried to grab his gun on the ground, the attorney said. “At this point Deputy Vega had no choice but to redraw his weapon and fire in self-defense.”
Hernandez’s lawyer, Tom Yu, said his client feared for his safety during the chase but he had no other details about the pursuit.
Friends and relatives have said Guardado worked as a security guard at a nearby auto body shop while he was learning to be a mechanic. The Sheriff’s Department said Guardado was too young to be licensed as a guard and wasn’t wearing a uniform.
Associated Press Writer Stefanie Dazio contributed.