Miguel Vega, the former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy who shot 18-year-old Andrés Guardado five times in the back in 2020, will not be criminally prosecuted for the killing, the LA County District Attorney’s Office revealed in a 31-page memo on April 14, 2023.
In a separate case, Vega, 32, and his partner, former Deputy Christopher Hernandez, 37, are accused of falsely arresting a young man, as well as tampering with witnesses and lying about the incident, which occurred just weeks before Guardado’s death. The two were indicted in March and face decades in prison if convicted.
For those unfamiliar with the death of Andrés Guardado, on the evening of June 18, 2020, Vega and Hernandez stopped at the Gardena mechanic shop where Guardado had recently been hired to work as a security guard.
The shop was known to law enforcement as a place where nitrous oxide (or laughing gas”) was illegally sold. Vega and Hernandez saw what they believed to be a sale of nitrous oxide and balloons, according to the DA’s memo. (After Guardado’s death, officers found canisters of the gas inside the business.)
Twice, the officers saw a young man — Guardado — talking to people through the windows of cars. The second time, officers rolled up and asked Guardado what he was doing. Because the windows of the car Guardado was standing next to were rolled down, deputies said they were able to see the teen reach for his waistband, where they saw a gun was tucked.
Vega and Hernandez said they told Guardado to “come here.” The teen took two steps backward, and Vega initiated a chase.
The deputies described Guardado as running at a slow or jogging pace while his hand remained at his waistband. Vega said he saw the teen draw the gun, while also disregarding commands to stop and show the officers his hands.
The deputies caught up with Guardado, who then put the gun down, and got on the ground.
According to Vega, Guardado did not put his hands behind his back as instructed, and reached for the gun on the ground while Vega was moving to handcuff him.
Vega shot Guardado in the back multiple times while the teen was lying on his stomach with his arms spread.
Although the district attorney chose not to move forward with criminal charges, last fall, LA County paid an $8 million wrongful death settlement to Elisa and Cristobal Guardado, the parents of Andrés.
“This decision doesn’t validate the actions of these officers,” DA George Gascón said in a statement on Twitter.
“They have a troubling background of misconduct and that was thoroughly considered.” Yet, Gascón said that his office did not find enough evidence to prove Vega’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
“In this case, we have no account of what happened at the moment Vega shot Guardado except Vega’s own statements,” the LA County District Attorney’s Office wrote in their memo.
“There is no surveillance video of the event and there are no other witnesses who saw what occurred.” People in and around the shop only heard Vega shoot Guardado.
“My heart goes out to the Guardado family,” Gascón wrote. “Nothing that my office can do will mitigate the unimaginable pain that those that knew and loved Andres must be feeling.”
The Guardados were “deeply disappointed” by the DA’s decision, according to Nicholas Yoka, one of the attorneys representing the Guardado family.
“Sheriff’s Department officials knew these deputies were unfit to be on the streets, or serve our communities, yet they were not timely disciplined or removed from their positions. If the Sheriff’s Department had done so, Andrés would still be alive today. Miguel Vega and Christopher Hernandez should have never been in uniform, or on the street.”
The two deputies were reportedly trying to join the Compton Station deputy gang, the Executioners, when Vega shot Guardado. Vega’s training officer was reportedly Executioner shot-caller Eugene Contreras. Prospective Executioners reportedly earn membership by committing acts of violence.
Skatepark Kidnapping and Coverup
Former deputy Christopher Hernandez — who did not open fire on Guardado — was also indicted in the false arrest and coverup incident that occurred just weeks prior to the Guardado shooting..
Vega and Hernandez were arraigned on April 13, 2023, on federal charges alleging that the duo falsely imprisoned a young skateboarder, violating his civil rights, and then lied about their actions.
On March 21, a federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment against Vega and Hernandez, charging them with conspiracy, deprivation of rights under color of law, witness tampering, and falsification of records.
According to the indictment, on April 13, 2020, at Wilson Park in Compton, the deputies arrested Jesus Alegria after the 23-year-old yelled at the deputies for hassling two young Black men outside the enclosed skate park.
Vega and Hernandez pulled Alegria through a hole in the fence, and put him in the back of their patrol car. The deputies then drove away from the park without telling Alegria that he was under arrest, without informing him of his rights, and without securing the young man’s seatbelt or handcuffing him, according to the indictment.
While driving, Vega reportedly told Alegria that they would set him up and drop him in gang territory, where Hernandez added he would be beaten.
Not far from the park, Vega began chasing another young person on a bicycle down an alley. Vega crashed into a wall and another car. Alegria’s head slammed into the patrol car’s divider, cutting his forehead.
After the crash, Vega reportedly pulled Alegria from the backseat and told him to “get the [expletive] out of here,” or similar words.
Alegria asked for help at a nearby house.
Vega reported over the LASD radio that a person matching Alegria’s description had fled through the alley, purportedly with a gun, thus arguably further endangering the skateboarder.
Vega also reported the car accident, but failed to include the information — both over the radio and during a conversation with his supervisor — that Alegria had been in the backseat.
When other deputies detained Alegria on a nearby street, Vega told his supervisor that Alegria had been in the back of the patrol car because the deputies suspected him of being under the influence of a controlled substance.
Alegria was taken to the hospital where he received treatment for the injury over his eye, as well as a citation for being under the influence of methamphetamine, although Alegria requested without success to be drug tested.
Vega claimed in the detention report that Alegria was displaying signs of being intoxicated, including sweating profusely, muttering, grinding his teeth, and acting erratically. Vega also falsely claimed that Alegria threatened to hurt people in the skatepark, according to the indictment.
The deputies face a maximum of five years for conspiracy, 10 years for deprivation of civil rights, 20 years for witness tampering, and 20 years for falsification of records.
The FBI is investigating the alleged crimes.
This story was updated on April 18, 2023, at 1:35 p.m. to add additional clarifying information.