Justice for Andrés Guardado

Andres Guardado Memorial
Andres Guardado Memorial

The Murder of Andres Guardado

Thursday evening, around 6pm, 18 year old security guard Andrés Guardado was murdered by LA Sheriff’s Deputies, shot six times in the back while on his knees, with his hands behind his head.

Eyewitnesses and cops tell different stories. Guardado was in front of the Freeway auto body shop when deputies approached. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Guardado “produced” a gun, looked toward the deputies, and began running away from the front of the auto shop.

According to witnesses, including the auto-body shop owner, Andrés was unarmed. His boss says Andrés ran back towards the shop because he was scared. After all, the cops have been killing a lot of Black and Latinx folks these days, and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has a long history as one of the most brutal, racist law enforcement agencies in the country.

In the driveway of the autobody shop, Andrés got down on his knees with his hands behind his head, surrendering to the deputies. A Deputy shot him six or seven times in the back.

It was an execution.

Unity against police brutality
Unity against police brutality

The cops then proceeded to destroy all surveillance cameras and DVRs that might have captured the murder, illegally confiscating the tapes. (They returned the next morning with warrants).

The public has demanded that the Sheriff’s Department release the tapes. The Sheriff’s Department states that none of the cameras had video cards and the DVR was broken, so there conveniently exists no tapes to turn over.

The ACLU’s Andrés Kwon says the officers’ seizing of cameras could amount to destruction of evidence, and is “potentially criminal and illegal.” He notes that this sheriff’s department has a long history of withholding records related to killings and other misconduct.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is “out of control, unhinged, and truly thinks he’s above the law.” Kwon is quoted as saying in the Intercept.

It was the second killing of a BIPOC man by LASD deputies in as many days.

Father’s Day March for Andrés Guardado

Three days after Andrés’ murder, on Father’s Day, thousands of us converged in front of the murder site. Andrés Guardado’s father tearfully said a few words.

We marched three miles down Redondo Blvd to the Sheriff’s substation in Compton. Families filled their yards, parking lots, church fronts, rooftops, intersections. Children and grandmothers, Black and Brown, giving the Black Power fist in the air. The march grew as residents joined in.

There was an immediacy to the anger. We were marching for a young man who had been murdered by police only days before. This crime happened on our streets, near our homes, and many leading the march knew Andrés. His family was in a truck up front, followed by indigenous dancers, and then the marchers. Pulling up the rear was a train of cars, many of them lowriders.

Indigenous Dancers lead the march
Indigenous Dancers lead the march

Birthday Party child gives Black Power salute
Birthday Party child gives Black Power salute

Indigenous women give Black Power salute from rooftop
Indigenous women give Black Power salute from rooftop

El Salvadorian and Mexicans flags flew. Los Angeles is a very Latino county – this land was Mexico not that long ago, and indigenous land before that. There were a lot of Central American, Mexican, and indigenous faces in the crowd. There were a lot of Black marchers, too.

El Salvadorian & Mexican Flags
El Salvadorian & Mexican Flags

El Salvador Flag
El Salvador Flag
Salvi Flag
Salvi Flag

Everyone Wore Masks

Everyone wore masks. There is a covid-19 pandemic, and Black and Brown people have suffered disproportionately from it. Andrés took the job as a security guard because his father was one of the many Mexican and Central American workers laid off due to the pandemic.

Many Black and Brown workers are essential workers who were forced to keep working, and many became infected. Of those deemed not essential, Black and Brown workers either lost their jobs or had their hours cut at a much higher rate than white people. Now that states are reopening prematurely, Black and Brown people are being hired back at a much lower rate than white people. When white people talk about the risks of protesting racism due to coronavirus, they fail to realize that coronavirus clearly displayed systemic racism in America. As this article in Bloomberg states, “racism is America’s pre-existing condition“.

Protesters wear covid-19 masks
Protesters wear covid-19 masks

When mobs of unmasked and heavily armed white protesters converged on state capitals or in places like Huntington Beach to protest the loss of liberty by being forced to wear masks, carrying Confederate Flags and screaming racism, Cops protected them. After all, many of the cops are members of extreme right militias.

Peaceful marches of unarmed protesters protesting police brutality have not been met with the same support from the cops as have armed antigovernment right wing militias. Unarmed folks peaceful protesting police brutality have been met with… police brutality. Here, as in Long Beach, as in Hollywood, as in Downtown, frightened cops, scared shitless of being held accountable, and just itching to do they only thing they know how (and the only thing they want to do), turned on the protesters, firing tear-gas and rubber bullets, both of which they later denied doing, despite tens of thousands of witnesses and multiple news crews plus folks with their cellphones capturing it all and broadcasting it live on Twitter and on FB. LA Taco had great coverage of entire event. Much of the mainstream press borrowed footage from them.

LA Sheriff's Department
LA Sheriff’s Department anxious to start shooting

The Cops Start Rioting

The protest march arrived at the LA Sheriff’s Department Compton Substation. There were a few collections of deputies in riot gear. They came to be surrounded by chanting protesters. As we have seen in person and in photos from other protests, the cops aimed their rifles AT CHILDREN in the crowd. (Everyone knows how deadly toddlers can be). The crowd chanted “Put down your weapons! Put down your weapons!”

Myriam and I were close enough to see the expressions in the cops faces. There was that sort of macho arrogance grandstanding that seems to get heavily amplified by fear. You could tell that out of some combination of intense fear and intense desire, they were anxious to open fire on the crowd.

Directly in front of them, the indigenous dancers continued their dance. Two cops trained their rifles on a group of children to their left, separated by a concrete barrier that was taller than the kids. The crowd continued to chant “Put down your weapons! Put down your weapons!”

Mexican Flags
Mexican Flags

An LASD helicopter circled overhead, telling us we weren’t welcome in Compton, although many in the crowd were from the neighborhood and many others in the neighborhood lined the streets with fists raised in the Black Power salute. It was an ominous warning that the cops would soon start rioting.

Andrés’ father made another heartbreaking speech. People were continuing to gather. Myriam and I left. Soon after, the LASD opened fire on the protesters with teargas and rubber bullets. As always, there was absolutely no provocation. This is just what police do. The do not protect and serve the people. They protect the property of certain wealthy people and institutions (almost all of them white) and in exchange they collect decent salaries and get to bust heads.

The police really like busting heads.

Stop the war on Black America!
Stop the war on Black America!

Sheriff Villanueva and the aftermath

On Tuesday, four days after the murder, The LA County Board of Supervisors, who approve the LASD budget, called for an independent investigation into Guardado’s death.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas suggested that Sheriff Alex Villanueva might stymie attempts by the inspector general to effectively oversee the probe.

“Unfortunately, the sheriff’s department has a track record of not fully complying with requests, and even subpoenas, from the inspector general and the (civilian oversight commission),” Ridley-Thomas said.

The need for immediate action was to protect evidence from being being destroyed by Sheriff’s deputies.

“I am committed to transparency and strengthening community faith in the investigative process,” Villanueva tweeted. He then placed a security hold on the coroner’s autopsy report, preventing the release of any information aside from Guardado’s name.

The city of Compton demanded an investigation into Guardados murder. There was already tension between the city and LASD over a police brutality incident from May 31.

Calling his men “the most experienced homicide investigators in the nation and second to none,” Villanueva pressed the case that the thoroughly corrupt LASD is best equipped to investigate itself.

Villanueva has refused to turn over any documents to the LA County Board of Supervisors, whose job it is to supervise Villanueva. He has also refused to comply with subpoenas issued by the LA County Board of Supervisors. The people in charge of enforcing the subpoenas would be, you guessed it, the Sheriff’s Department.

Villanueva also blamed the County Board of Supervisors for the May 31 Dalvin Price incident, claiming that had they approved the body cams he requested, the brutality would have never happened.

Who polices the police? No one.

Fuera
Fuera

The LA Sheriff’s Department Neo-Nazi ties.

“A federal judge has concluded that many Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies at the Lynwood station routinely violate civil rights, are motivated by “racial hostility” and use “terrorist-type tactics” with the knowledge of their superiors.” – LA Times, October 1991

Almost 30 years ago, in a lawsuit brought on by Lynwood residents who accused the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department of “systematic acts of shooting, killing, brutality, terrorism, house-trashing and other acts of lawlessness and wanton abuse of power”, Federal Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. ruled that a “neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang” of deputies runs the show at LASD. “Policy makers tacitly authorize deputies’ unconstitutional behavior.” (You can read the LA Times article here.)

Judge Hatton ordered the LA Sheriff’s Department to start obeying the law. They didn’t. Who is going to make them.?

Twenty-five years later, that same neo-nazi organization had grown in size and in power. In 2015, Paul Tanaka, Undersheriff of Los Angeles County (and former mayor of Gardena, the city in which Andrés Gaurdado was murdered by LASD) was indicted on federal conspiracy and obstruction charges in the ongoing Los Angeles County Men’s Jail corruptions investigation. He was the 8th LASD official indicted in that investigation.

Tanaka was a member of the Lynwood Vikings neo-nazi group condemned by Judge Hatton.

Both Paul Tanaka and Sheriff Lee Baca were convicted and are now in Federal Prison.

A number of reforms were instituted in an attempt to bring the now completely-demonstrated-to-be-a-criminal-enterprise Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department under control. One of these was a civilian review board who, along with new Sheriff Jim McDonnell, started reviewing complaints against deputies, and firing those found guilty of police brutality, domestic violence, etc.

The new Sheriff was a straight-laced Irish cop, a conservative man who believed in strict enforcement of law-and-order. That meant limited tolerance for corruption in the Sheriff’s Department, but it also meant a refusal to comply with California Sanctuary City rules and a fondness for ICE.

The citizens wanted more. Alex Villanueva entered the campaign. A low ranking member of the Sheriff’s Department with a history of brutality and of insubordination, Villanueva campaigned as the first Latino to run for Sheriff since the 19th century. He was embraced by both the pro-brutality rank-and-file officers, and by Democrats, reformers, and the Latino community who saw him as a friend. In a stunning upset, Villanueva won.

Villanueva’s victory was in large part a case of “anyone but Jim McDonnell”, which is something that should give concern to “Anyone but Trump” Biden supporters. Villanueva’s first move was creating a “truth and reconciliation” process to rehire officers who had been fired for crimes like police brutality and domestic violence. His next move was to defend those rehirings in court. One of the men rehired was Carl Mandoyan, who a court found had stalking and physically abused his ex-girlfriend (also an LASD Deputy). There was video-tape of one of the attacks. Villanueva spent $11 million of tax-payer money defending this rehiring in court. He lost.

Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff wrote “The sheriff’s decision to overturn Mandoyan’s discharge substantially erodes public trust and confidence in the county’s law enforcement agency. It also undermines the county’s employment and discipline systems and creates confusion with employees and the public.”

Sheriff Alex Villanueva is what police reform looks like. LA Mag calls him “The Donald Trump of LA Law Enforcement“.

Alex Villanueva is also alleged to be a member of the Banditos, an East LA based equivalent of the Lynwood Vikings. Like his predecessors, Villanueva insists the gangs are just benevolent fraternal organizations who engage in a bit of hazing and rough housing, and that joining them is a 1st Amendment right. The FBI is investigating.

It seems pretty clear that law enforcement cannot be reformed. Most of the reforms have already taken place, only to be ignored by the police themselves, as most clearly evidenced by Villanueva’s contempt for subpoenas, civilian oversight, and the law itself.

Meanwhile, protests must, and do, continue.

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