Man Killed by Deputies in Willowbrook Was Shot in the Back – NBC Los Angeles

on Jan28
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The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner held its second inquest in nearly 30 years Thursday to provide a public examination of the death of Fred Williams, III, who was shot to death while running from LA County Sheriff’s Department deputies in Willowbrook last year.

Deputy medical examiner Dr. Vadim Poukens, M.D., who conducted the autopsy on Williams, testified that Williams was shot once, and the wound would have been fatal within one hour.

“Was Mr. Williams’ back to the deputy when he was shot?,” asked Deputy County Counsel Joseph Langton.

“Yes,” said Dr. Poukens.

Williams, 25, was killed Oct. 16, 2020 after deputies said they noticed him holding a gun while standing with a group of people at a park and the deputies began to chase him. 

The Sheriff’s Department initially said Williams had pointed a gun at a deputy, and released video recordings and information in late October in which the deputy was recorded in radio traffic saying Williams had, “pointed 417 at me,” using the Sheriff’s radio code for a person armed with a gun.

Later a Sheriff’s official in charge of internal investigations said the shooting investigation was only in its early stages and the department’s understanding of the events could change as more evidence was reviewed.

Body-worn camera recordings made public by the Sheriff’s Department showed Williams on top of a shed holding a handgun during a foot chase, and Williams’ father, Fred Williams, Jr., told reporters the video shows his son was shot in the back.

“There was never a gun pointed,” in the deputy’s direction, he said. 

At the conclusion of the inquest retired Judge Candace Cooper will determine the cause and manner of Williams’ death.

In November, 2020 the Medical Examiner-Coroner held an inquest to examine the death of Andres Guardado, 18, who was killed by deputies near an auto shop on West Redondo Beach Blvd. in June, 2020. 

The inquest concluded with the same findings as the autopsy examination of Guardado: that he’d been shot in the back five times.

The deputy who fired the shots, Miguel Vega, did not attend the inquest and said in a letter from his attorney that were he present he would have refused to answer questions by asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

Several other Sheriff’s employees, including the homicide detectives assigned to investigate the case, also asserted the Fifth Amendment privilege when they were questioned about the facts of the case. 

Both inquests were prompted by members of the Board of Supervisors who complained the Sheriff’s Department has been resistant to public oversight and has not been forthcoming with details about the killings.

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