LOS ANGELES – Lisa Vargas wants to visit her son in East Los Angeles. Every Saturday she and her family unload folding chairs, walk down a short hill and water a tree rooted in the ground once seeped in the family’s blood.
“The pain that I have, it runs deep,” Vargas said.
Her son, Anthony, has been dead for over a year. The questions surrounding his killing could be the case that cracks the Banditos, an alleged gang inside the Sheriff’s station in East L.A.
“We’re not after money. We’re not after anything. We want answers and we want accountability,” Vargas said.
Anthony was at a BBQ in the projects in August of 2019. Deputies say they were looking for an armed robbery suspect when they came across the 21-year-old. At the time, deputies told reporters that Anthony ran and resisted arrest. Deputies say they felt a gun in his waistband and opened fire in fear of their lives.
To his family, it is a story that is hard to believe.
"Anthony did not have a history of being in gangs. Anthony did not have a history of committing crimes,” said the family’s lawyer and gang expert Humberto Guizar.
Guizar obtained a copy of Anthony’s autopsy that showed the young man had been shot 13 times in the back, including in the back of the head.
“The number of shots is horrific. It suggests this is a ‘Gangland’ shooting. And I’ll say it without any hesitation. I can’t interpret it any other way,” Guizar said.
The shooting of Anthony Vargas is one of two lawsuits targeting the Banditos in East L.A. Court documents allege members have matching tattoos of a skeleton holding a smoking gun and that the Banditos ran the station – controlling dispatch and harassing deputies who refused to join.
In a statement, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department declined an interview:
“Once again, we would like to express our condolences to the family of Anthony Vargas. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is aware of the lawsuit filed on his behalf. The facts surrounding this incident have been presented for independent review to the District Attorney’s Office. Due to the ongoing investigation, and the pending litigation, we should not comment further at this time. As always, the public safety of all Los Angeles County residents remains our number one priority.”