L.A. County Sheriff’s Department deputy Austreberto “Art” Gonzalez, the whistleblower who called attention to the Executioners, an allegedly violent clique of deputies at the Compton sheriff’s station, also testified that the deputy who killed 18-year-old Andres Guardado in Gardena was a prospective member. As Executioners are also accused of becoming members through violence, these claims could have some pretty disturbing implications in the Guardado case.
Gonzalez previously said several deputies belong to the Executioners, sporting tattoos featuring Nazi imagery and AK-47s, while several others are Executioner hopefuls. According to the complaint filed against L.A. County, “Members become inked as ‘Executioners’ after executing members of the public, or otherwise committing acts of violence in furtherance of the gang.”
Spectrum News 1 also obtained sworn testimony from a different excessive use of force case. In it, Gonzalez said deputies would attempt to impress Executioners to become members, something he called “chasing ink.” He also alleged deputies would throw “998 parties,” named after the code for an “officer-involved shooting,” which is what law enforcement calls it when an officer or deputy shoots someone.
“Some people say it’s to celebrate the deputy is alive,” Gonzalez said. “Others say it’s to celebrate that they’re going to be ‘inking’ somebody.”
Gonzalez named sheriff’s deputy Miguel Vega as a prospective Executioner. Vega shot and killed Guardado in an alleyway in Gardena on June 18. In the footage obtained by Spectrum News 1, Gonzalez is asked if the deputies involved in the Guardado shooting were “inked members” or prospects. Gonzalez responds “prospects,” and then names both Vega and deputy Chris Hernandez, who was on the call with Vega, but didn’t open fire. Vega’s attorney later told Spectrum News 1 this is false, according to a tweet from reporter Kate Cagle.
The circumstances surrounding Guardado’s death are already pretty convoluted. He is said to have worked as an unofficial security guard at an auto body shop where deputies spotted him talking to someone in a car. Deputies claim Guardado saw them, flashed a gun and ran. They chased him, and, in a nearby alley, Vega opened fire. Authorities say they recovered a “ghost gun” without a serial number from the scene.
The deputies involved weren’t wearing body cams at the time because those don’t roll out until October 1, and video footage from a camera across the street fails to show the actual shooting.
Meanwhile, a report suggests members of these deputy gangs have cost L.A. County millions in lawsuits. The Board of Supervisors requested that report after alleged members of The Banditos — that’s the East L.A. clique — got into a fight with fellow deputies at a party in 2018. On Aug. 13, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced that 26 employees would be disciplined in connection with that incident.