A makeshift shrine has formed outside an autobody shop in Gardena, California, where mourners have left bouquets of flowers, balloons, notes and pictures of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, who was shot and killed Thursday by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy.
“He was a baby, he was a baby,” Guardado’s cousin, Celina Abarca, told CNN through tears on Sunday. “I don’t know – it’s still not real. I close my eyes and I hope and I pray that it’s not really happening.”
On Sunday, Guardado’s family, which hails from El Salvador, gathered at the body shop for a march to honor the late 18-year-old. They wore the blue and white of the Salvadoran flag – and the blue and white of the Los Angeles Dodgers, of which Guardado was a fan.
“We just want answers,” Celina Abarca said.
Guardado’s cousins remembered him as an “energetic” and “happy” person, someone who was always willing to help people, particularly his grandmother.
Another cousin, Steve Abarca, told CNN the 18-year-old was working at the autobody shop as a security guard the night he was shot, but several questions remain unanswered about the circumstances that led to his death.
Captain Kent Wegener, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau, said in a news conference Saturday that two sheriff’s deputies saw Guardado in front of a business on West Redondo Beach Boulevard a few minutes before 6 p.m. PT on Thursday.
Guardado “reportedly looked toward the deputies” and “produced a handgun,” Wegener said, before running down the driveway of the business. The deputies pursued Guardado and caught up to him at the rear of the business, where one deputy fired 6 rounds.
Guardado was hit in the upper torso and pronounced dead at the scene, Wegener said. An autopsy is pending, the Los Angeles County Coroner said.
Investigators recovered a .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol at the scene that had no serial number, Wegener said. Additionally, the firearm had a illegal extended magazine that was loaded with 13 live rounds.
Steve Abarca told CNN, “I never even knew him to have any sort of gun.”
Wegener said Saturday that investigators were aware of reports Guardado was working as a security guard, but he said Guardado was not recognizable as a security guard at the time of the shooting. He was not wearing a uniform, nor did he have a gun belt, Wegener said.
“He was not yet 21 years of age, which is required to be an armed security guard in the state of California,” the captain said. “There is no record of a license through the California Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.”
Authorities obtained search warrants and collected cameras from the scene for evidence, Wegener said, but detectives are still trying to figure out if there is video footage of the shooting. At that time, authorities had no footage of the incident, Wegener told reporters.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the incident underscored the importance of body-worn cameras, which the department is still working with the county to procure.
Guardado’s death took place amid widespread protest across the country, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, racial injustice and the relationship between police and communities of color.
CNN’s Paul Vercammen reported from Gardena, California, while Dakin Andone reported and wrote this story in Atlanta.