LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CA — Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s chief of staff has been reassigned after making comments on Facebook saying Andres Guardado, the 18-year-old security guard deputies shot in the back in Gardena last month, “chose his fate,” officials confirmed Wednesday.
Capt. John Burcher was reassigned this week to the East Patrol Division, which commands stations in San Dimas, Temple City, Industry, La Cresenta, Altadena and Walnut. The move was announced in an internal sheriff’s message, according to a spokesman for the department.
As chief of staff, Burcher was one of Villanueva’s top commanders. His reassignment comes after comments he made on a Facebook post about the June 18 shooting of Guardado came to light.
“Why so much coverage over Guardado?” Burcher asked in the comment, according to a screenshot of the post.
“What about Isabella Cortes and Patricia Alotorre? Why does this guy, who CHOSE his destiny get so much coverage from you, but the two slain, one raped and slain, 13 year old girls get NOTHING??”
According to the screenshot obtained by ABC7, Burcher made the comment underneath a CBS2 Facebook post about the results of an independent autopsy of Guardado commissioned by the man’s family.
Burcher also argued with other commenters who responded to him, calling one an idiot and another a racist.
“Sorry, your life does not matter more than mine does, you racist,” Burcher wrote.
“Read the facts you moron. Stop it and shut up.”
Some people who posted comments later pointed out Burcher’s position in the Sheriff’s Department.
The department did not respond to a request for comment from Burcher on Wednesday.
The internal message announcing his reassignment did not give a reason why the change was being made. But in a statement to ABC7, Sheriff Villanueva confirmed Burcher made the comments and was subject to an administrative investigation.
Nicholas Yoka and Adam Shea, attorneys for Guardado’s family, said they believed the comments were made on a July 10 post. They said that the same day Villanueva declined to release more information about the shooting before the investigation was completed.
Both attorneys said Burcher’s comments showed the need for an independent investigation into the shooting. They said the department should release of all the evidence they’ve gathered so far.
“The actions of the Department continue to not only threaten the integrity of the criminal investigation into Andres’ death, but further exasperate the public’s mistrust of law enforcement in the community,” Shea said in a statement.
Yoka said he had not spoken to Guardado’s family directly yet about Burcher’s comments. But he said the family was aware of the comments.
“I think you can imagine that such comments could only cause further distress to what has already been a horrific and unbelievably sad time for the family,” Yoka said.
They want “to know why the deputies have not yet been arrested and charged yet.”
Sheriff’s Department Lt. Charles Calderaro said there’s been no update in the shooting investigation. Homicide detectives still did not have video evidence of the shooting and the firearm found near Guardado was still being processed at the crime lab.
Two deputies from the Sheriff’s Compton Station were patrolling in the 400 block of West Redondo Beach Boulevard when they noticed a firearm in the front waistband of Guardado as he talked with someone in a car parked along the driveway to a row of businesses, authorities said.
Guardado allegedly ran from the deputies and pulled the weapon from his waistband as he fled, attorneys for deputies have said.
Adam Marangell, representing Deputy Miguel Vega through the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Professional Association, said in a statement that Guardado, while lying face down on the ground, “unmistakably” reached for his firearm while Vega was approaching to place him in handcuffs and that’s what led Vega to shoot.
Guardado was known to employees at the auto body shops for about six months. He had just bought a new car six months prior, family members said, and volunteered to deter would-be taggers from defacing the building.
Guardado apparently worked security elsewhere, but authorities said he was not licensed.
Family members have said Guardado was not armed and did not have access to a firearm.
“The family wants to know why the deputies have not yet been arrested and charged yet,” Yoka said Wednesday.
Sheriff’s officials were still investigating where Guardado may have accessed the firearm that was found at the scene.