Citing a lack of trust in Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has requested inquests into the fatal shootings of three men by sheriff’s deputies last year.
Until last year, the coroner’s office had not performed an inquest in more than three decades.
Amid growing accusations about the sheriff’s department’s lack of transparency, the coroner launched an inquest into the June 2020 fatal shooting by deputies of 18-year-old Andres Guardado.
Sheriff’s officials had put a security hold on Guardado’s autopsy.
The inquest concluded with no significant findings after the deputy who shot Guardado and the detectives who investigated the case refused to testify.
An inquest in the fatal deputy shooting of Fred Williams III similarly failed to shed new light on what happened.
Max Huntsman, the inspector general for the county sheriff and probation departments, has complained that Villanueva has blocked him from crucial information in investigating deputy shootings. Villanueva has repeatedly refuted that claim.
“No one is above the law,” Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who authored the motion requesting the inquest, said in a statement. “The families and communities that are left grappling with the pain of losing their loved one deserve truth and accountability.”
Tuesday’s unanimous decision is likely to deepen a longstanding feud between the supervisors and the sheriff.
“The only person, the only entity that’s trying to sell the idea to the public that we are not transparent, that we don’t hold people accountable, is you, the Board of Supervisors,” Villanueva said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “The public already is understanding that this is a straight political attack on the Sheriff’s Department and myself as sheriff.”
Villanueva said Young and Herrera were not sympathetic because of criminal allegations in their pasts. He ran out of time before he could mention Kizzee.
“You’re trying to sell the idea somehow that they were unjustly murdered by sheriff’s deputies,” Villanueva said. “That’s reprehensible — in fact, that’s downright repulsive.”
Kizzee, who had moved to Lancaster with his family to escape violence in South L.A., was back in the Westmont neighborhood visiting friends on Aug. 31, 2020.
He loved bicycles and was riding one when deputies pursued him.
According to sheriff’s officials, deputies opened fire on Kizzee after he “made a motion toward” a gun that fell to the ground.
Witnesses said deputies kept firing at Kizzee after he collapsed.
Jamie Kizzee said her family has the right to know why deputies killed her cousin.
Two deputies “shot at my cousin 19 times,” she said at the board meeting. “Sixteen of those bullets filled his body when he was allowed to lay in the gutter with his eyes open for hours.”
Supervisor Hilda Solis, who co-authored the motion, said families like the Kizzees are often given the runaround when seeking information. That’s why inquests are crucial, she said.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Villanueva is undermining rank-and-file deputies who protect their communities every day.
His comments further diminish public trust in law enforcement, said Barger, who is married to a retired sheriff’s deputy.
She questioned why Villanueva is so vehemently opposed to the inquests.
“If there is nothing there, what are you afraid of?” she said.