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GARDENA, Calif. – Two Los Angeles County deputies accused of shooting 18-year-old Andres Guardado five times in the back in June have been suspended in connection with a traffic crash that occurred two months before Guardado’s death.

Sheriff’s Department officials confirmed Friday that the two deputies, Miguel Vega and Chris Hernandez, were relieved of duty pending the outcome of an investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

It was not clear why Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva waited eight months to suspend the deputies, the Times reported.

>> Related story: LA County deputy shot Latino teen Andres Guardado 5 times in back, autopsies show

Andres Guardado

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks during a Sept. 10, 2020, news conference in Los Angeles.

California Highway Patrol officials said the crash took place just before 5 p.m. April 13 as Vega drove a patrol car. An arrestee was in the back seat of the vehicle at the time.

CHP Officer Simeon Yarbrough told the Times that officers were called to an alley in Willowbrook, where Vega told them he’d begun pursuing a bicyclist he suspected of carrying a gun.

As he attempted to pass a parked car, Vega said, he crashed into the vehicle and a wall. The man in the deputies’ custody suffered minor injuries in the crash.

Andres Guardado

A California Highway Patrol officer looks at a damaged Los Angeles County police cruiser in November 2013. Two deputies involved in a crash April 13, 2020, have been suspended pending an investigation into the incident.

Vega and the injured man gave CHP officers differing accounts of how fast the patrol car was going, the Times reported. Vega told investigators he accelerated from 30 to 35 mph just before the crash.

The detainee said the car was traveling between 55 and 60 mph.

The newspaper reported that arrest and jail records show no indication that the man was ever booked or charged, raising concerns that Vega let him go after the crash.

The paper reported that the belated investigation of the crash also raises questions of whether Vega and Hernandez should have been relieved of duty prior to Guardado’s June death — and whether the teen would still be alive if they had been.

Andres Guardado

Andres Guardado, 18, is pictured in a photo on a memorial where he was shot and killed by a Los Angeles County deputy Thursday, June 18, 2020, outside an auto body shop near Gardena.

Guardado was working as a security guard at an auto body shop near Gardena just before 6 p.m. June 18 when two deputies from the Compton substation, later identified as Vega and Hernandez, spotted him standing in front of the business at 420 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., talking to someone.

“Guardado reportedly looked toward the deputies, produced a handgun and ran southbound down the driveway of the business at the location,” according to Capt. Kent Wegener, head of the sheriff’s department’s Homicide Bureau. “Deputies gave chase on foot and ultimately caught up to Guardado at the rear of the business, where a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”

One deputy fired at the teen, who was struck in the torso. He was pronounced dead at the scene, Wegener said during a news conference. Attorneys for the deputies later identified Vega as the deputy who shot Guardado.

Hernandez did not fire his weapon.

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Andres Guardado

Pictured in a March 2019 Street View image is the Gardena, Calif., auto body shop where Andres Guardado, 18, was shot and killed by a Los Angeles County deputy Thursday, June 18, 2020.

A case report attached to the official autopsy report indicates the deputies spotted the gun in Guardado’s waistband.

“Officers told decedent to get down and to not reach for his weapon,” the case report states. “The decedent reached to his waistband and officers shot at the decedent.”

Guardado was pronounced dead at the scene. A total of six shell casings were recovered from the driveway, according to the report.

The teen’s death prompted hundreds of people, including his family members, to protest at the scene of the shooting.

“My parents are completely destroyed,” his sister, Jennifer Guardado, told The Associated Press. “We’re all dead inside. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him and it hurt me too much.”

Andres Guardado

Jennifer Guardado, 22, is comforted by a relative Friday, June 19, 2020, outside the auto body shop where her brother, 18-year-old Andres Guardado, was shot and killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy the day before.

Guardado’s family has expressed doubts about his alleged possession of a weapon, which authorities have described as a .45-caliber handgun with a polymer frame and a prohibited extended magazine loaded with 13 rounds. It had no markings or serial number, investigators said.

Authorities said Guardado, who was not old enough to work as a state-licensed armed security guard, was not wearing a guard’s uniform or a gun belt. He had no holster or extra magazines of ammunition for his pistol, and he had no handcuffs.

Andres Guardado

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Commander Chris Marks discusses the June 18, 2020, shooting of Andres Guardado, 18, outside an auto body shop near Gardena. Deputies allege Guardado was armed with an illegal handgun, pictured.

The teen is not believed to have fired the weapon at deputies and Adam Shea, an attorney representing his family, has said the claim Guardado was carrying a gun is “contrary to everything that the family and friends and co-workers know.

“We do not believe that he had a gun,” Shea said at a news conference, according to NBC News. “There was a gun at the scene. How and why that gun was there and who it belonged to is a question that needs to be answered.”

No body camera footage of the shooting exists. Villanueva said that Guardado’s killing underscored the need for the cameras.

>> Related story: LA county officials demand independent probe into deputy’s killing of 18-year-old security guard

A Sept. 1 motion adopted by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to ensure a “transparent and independent” probe into the shooting indicates that Vega told investigators “that he approached Mr. Guardado after Mr. Guardado dropped a gun as instructed and laid down as ordered.”

“However, Deputy Vega’s statement was taken by LASD investigators a month after Mr. Guardado’s killing, and only after the LASD had concluded there was no video record of the final moments of Mr. Guardado’s life,” the motion continued.

A second autopsy commissioned by Guardado’s family confirmed he was shot five times in the back at close range.

Andres Guardado

Images from the official autopsy report of Andres Guardado show the location of all five fatal gunshot wounds that killed him June 18, 2020, as well as the trajectory of each bullet. Guardado, 18, was shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.

The results of the second autopsy echoed the findings of the official autopsy, which Dr. Jonathan Lucas, chief medical examiner-coroner for Los Angeles County, released in defiance of a “security hold” placed on the report by Villanueva.

Each of the five bullets that struck Guardado caused fatal wounds, the official autopsy report states. Toxicology results show the teen had no drugs or alcohol in his system when he was killed.

Read Andres Guardado’s official autopsy report below.

Andres Guardado Autopsy Report by National Content Desk

“Our son did not deserve to die this way,” Guardado’s parents said in a statement obtained by NBC News. “Andres was a good boy. He was our son, and he had so much life ahead of him.”

Guardado, a student at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, was working two part-time security jobs to help support his family, according to loved ones. His death has prompted multiple protests, and county officials and U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters and Nanette Diaz Barragán, both of California, demanded an independent investigation into the shooting.

Andres Guardado

Demonstrators hold up their hands during a protest June 28, 2020, in Compton, Calif., for Andres Guardado, who was shot and killed June 18 by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. Guardado, 18, was working a security job in nearby Gardena when he was killed.

Los Angeles County officials also demanded an independent investigation into Guardado’s slaying.

An inquest into the shooting is being conducted by the Los Angeles Medical Examiner-Coroner. The proceeding — the first held in LA County in 30 years — began Nov. 30.

“The department … is committed to transparency and providing the residents of Los Angeles County an independent assessment of its findings in this case,” Lucas said. “An inquest ensures that our residents will have an independent review of all the evidence and findings of our office and of the cause and manner of death of Mr. Guardado.”

Andres Guardado

Jennifer Guardado, the sister of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, is comforted by her cousin, Steve Abarca, during a June 28, 2020, protest in her brother’s name. The teen was shot five times in the back by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy June 18 near Gardena.

A retired California Court of Appeals justice is overseeing the inquest, which Lucas said is being conducted in accordance with the motion approved by the Board of Supervisors.

“In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and far too many others since then, demands for accountability of law enforcement have escalated,” the motion reads. “The disturbing trend within law enforcement to thwart oversight and transparency of internal investigations threatens to further erode the public’s trust that justice will be served.

“This circumstance must not be tolerated.”

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Vega, Hernandez and two detectives who investigated the shooting have refused to testify at the inquest, the Times reported. Upon the advice of their attorneys, each invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Sheriff’s Department officials told the newspaper Villanueva did not instruct the deputies to invoke their rights. Legal experts indicated, however, that it may be a move by the department to refuse cooperation in a proceeding the sheriff dismissed as a “circus stunt.”

Listen to Sheriff Alex Villanueva discuss the inquest below.

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson told the paper she was not surprised by the deputies’ move.

“I’m sure what they’re thinking is, ‘We don’t know where this is headed. We don’t know who this is going to target. We don’t know if they’re going to claim there’s some kind of cover-up. We don’t know enough not to assert our Fifth Amendment right,’” Levenson said. “I think you can take it for what it is: No one is volunteering from that sheriff’s office to cooperate in that inquiry.

“It was clearly coordinated. It was clearly designed to protect them, and to make it more difficult to make findings that could be used against them or others.”

On Aug. 31, Guardado’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the sheriff’s department, the county, Vega and Hernandez. The lawsuit alleges not only that the deputies used “unreasonable and excessive force,” but also that they “were possibly acting in connection and in agreement with members of one or more LASD gangs of which they may be affiliated,” lawyers for the family said.

Read the Guardado family’s lawsuit below.

Andres Guardado Family Lawsuit by National Content Desk on Scribd

The lawyers allege that Villanueva and his department “knew about deputy gangs within the sheriff’s department, knew that deputies Vega and Hernandez ‘had possible affiliations with at least one of these Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department gangs, including, but not limited to, the gangs known as the Executioners and/or the 3,000 Boys’ and that these same deputies ‘were possibly acting in connection and in agreement with these other gang members on the day of Andres’ death.’”

A whistleblower from within the department came forward with allegations that Vega was trying to get into the Executioners, FOX11 in Los Angeles reported. In a video deposition, Deputy Art Gonzalez testified that 15 deputies at the Compton station — where Vega and Hernandez were assigned — belonged to the gang.

Members of the gang have matching skull tattoos. According to Gonzalez, the gang “celebrates” deputy-involved shootings by drinking and getting the tattoos.

“We call it Ink Chasers because they’re out there trying to show the rest of the members, the rest of the ink members, that they are worthy of that tattoo,” Gonzalez said.

Through his attorney, Vega has denied the allegations.

Villanueva and the department have confirmed deputy gang activity in the past. In August, Villanueva announced he planned to fire or suspend 26 deputies in connection with an attack committed by the “Banditos” deputy gang in 2018. The Banditos operated out of the East Los Angeles substation.

According to ABC7 in Los Angeles, Villanueva’s decision stemmed from a violent confrontation at a department-sponsored party. One of the deputies who was beaten spoke out anonymously after he and six colleagues filed claims alleging harassment and discrimination.

“There’s people getting, you know, stomped on … being choked out … it was just crazy, crazy to believe they’re all cops,” the deputy told the news station in 2019.

Like the Executioners, the Banditos had matching tattoos of a skeleton. The skeleton wore a sombrero and carried a shotgun, ABC7 reported.

“Vikings, Reapers, Regulators, Little Devils, Cowboys, 2000 Boys and 3000 Boys, Jump Out Boys and most recently, the Banditos and the Executioners,” Matthew Burson, chief of the department’s professional standard division, said. “I am absolutely sickened by the mere allegation of any deputy hiding behind their badges to hurt anyone.”

Shea, the attorney for Guardado’s family, said in a statement that he is confident that, when the facts come out, a jury will “deliver justice that reflects how grossly the Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County officials have failed Andres, his family and the people of the communities they have sworn to serve.”

“The blood of Andres Guardado lays not only on the hands of Deputy Miguel Vega, but on every member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who has dismissed their oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California,” Shea said.