The Los Angeles County coroner’s office will open an independent inquiry into the sheriff’s deputy-involved death of an 18-year-old man shot in June, NPR reports. It is a significant step into the high-profile killing of Andres Guardado. The inquest, which had been recommended by the Board of Supervisors, will be the first such investigation by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner in more than 30 years. Guardado was killed on June 18 after shots were fired by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, prompting days of protest.
An independent autopsy, performed at the request of his family, found that he was shot five times in the back. Andres’ parents, Cristobal and Elisa Guardado, believe their son was “unjustifiably killed” by deputies. The coroner appointed retired state appeals judge Candace Cooper to conduct an inquest into the circumstances, manner and cause of Guardado’s death. The case has subjected Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the rest of the department to intense public scrutiny. The department also faces criticism for the shooting death of Dijon Kizzee, a Black man, in September. The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to consider options to remove Villanueva, who is elected by voters, before his term of office is up in 2022. The coroner’s decision to open an independent investigation is notable, said Loyola Law School Prof. Eric Miller. “The advantage is it’s public. That may be more conducive to a fair and neutral process,” Miller said.