September 25, 2020

Officers Shot Latino Man Five Times in the Back, Autopsy Says

An 18-year-old Latino man who was killed in a confrontation with Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies last month was fatally shot five times in the back, according to an autopsy released Friday in a killing the man’s family contends was unjustified.

The confrontation occurred on June 18 when a police unit on patrol in Gardena, Calif., approached the man, Andres Guardado, and the woman he was standing with on a sidewalk, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s report.

According to the report, Mr. Guardado ran, and sheriff deputies caught up with him and told him to get down and not to reach for the weapon that was around his waistband. When he did, the report said, deputies shot at him.

One deputy’s weapon, a 9-millimeter handgun, was collected as evidence, along with another weapon, a Smith & Wesson handgun, which was found lying a few feet from Mr. Guardado’s body.

The autopsy, conducted on June 22, said that in addition to the five gunshot wounds, Mr. Guardado also had wounds on each of his forearms and abrasions on his forehead. The coroner detected no drugs or alcohol in his system, the report said.

While Mr. Guardado’s death remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, his family contends that the killing was unjustified. The encounter happened at a time when thousands of people in cities across the United States were marching against police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

Mr. Guardado, whose family is from El Salvador, was killed near an auto body shop that he was providing security for that day, said his uncle, Noe Abarca. His uncle said he was dedicated to working and learning his trade.

In a statement issued the day after the shooting, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that Mr. Guardado was not recognized as a licensed security officer by the state and that he was not wearing identifiable clothing or a uniform indicating he was working as a security guard.

The statement said a loaded firearm that had a “prohibited magazine” was found at the scene. California state law prohibits most civilians from owning magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department said Friday afternoon that it was working on a response.

Adam Shea, a lawyer who represents Mr. Guardado’s family, was preparing a statement in response to the autopsy report, a spokeswoman said.

The deputy sheriffs who were involved were not wearing body cameras, an official said at a news conference last month.

Dr. Jonathan Lucas, the Los Angeles County medical examiner, said he had decided to release the autopsy report after some deliberation.

“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,” he said in a statement. “I do not believe that these are mutually exclusive ideals.”

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and John Ismay contributed reporting.