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LA County DA George Gascón defends his record in case of accused El Monte police shooter

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón acknowledged during a news conference Tuesday, June 21, that the convicted felon who killed two El Monte officers last week could have been behind bars if his prior case had gone to trial, but defended the plea bargain offered to the shooter.

“We do not serve our community when we try to pretend that we can predict, 100 percent of the time, when these cases are going to occur,” Gascón said. “The best we can do is continue to work toward a safer community.”

El Monte Police Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were responding to a stabbing reported at a motel at 10327 Garvey Ave. on June 14. They encountered a man with a handgun and a woman in one of the rooms. At some point she walked out, then gunfire rang out and the two officers were wounded. They later died at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center.

Paredes had been with the department since July 2000. Santana was hired in 2021. Both of them grew up in El Monte and sought to give back to the city that raised them, relatives said.

The man who killed the two officers, 35-year-old Justin Flores, was shot by police while trying to flee. He later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Two months after Gascón took office, Flores had pleaded no contest to being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2021. Two other charges were dropped as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, and he was ordered to serve 20 days in jail and two years on probation. Critics of Gascón note Flores would have been eligible for a minimum sentence of two years and six months behind bars under California’s “Three Strikes” law.

The terms of the plea agreement Flores was offered, including its sentence, were ” on par with offers in previous administrations,” District Attorney’s officials said the day after the two officers were killed.

Critics of Gascón note Flores would have been eligible for a minimum sentence of two years and six months behind bars under California’s “Three Strikes” law.

Gascón, a former police officer, campaigned as a reformer seeking to reverse course from decades of a tough-on-crime approach in the criminal justice system. He has discouraged prosecutors from seeking harsher penalties against defendants for prior convictions and other special circumstances.

Olga Garcia, the mother of Officer Joseph Santana, was joined by law enforcement, deputy district attorney officials and the widows of other slain officers outside the El Monte Police Department on Friday, June 17 to voice concerns over Gascón’s policies, which she said led to Flores’s premature release.

“I blame the deaths of my son and his partner on Gascón. Gascón will never know how I feel. Gascón will never know how he destroyed our family,” Garcia said Friday.

The District Attorney also said Tuesday that if Flores’s most recent case had gone to trial, he could possibly have been in custody while waiting for his day in court.

“We can if this to death… but the reality is that when you have the history that this individual (Flores) had, the outcome was appropriate, given the circumstances,” Gascón said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for more.

Source: Orange County Register

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