Justin William Flores, who is accused of fatally shooting El Monte Police Department Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana, had a previous strike conviction and received two years probation for a felony firearm possession charge.
“We have an imperfect system,” Gascon said during a Tuesday press conference, “and that’s not only here in L.A. It’s everywhere. I know this is frustrating to hear, and it may not help heal the wounds for some. We do not serve our community when we try to pretend that we can predict 100% of the time when these cases are going to … occur.”
Flores had been “drug-addicted for many years” and previously arrested “multiple times for a variety of low-level offenses,” most of which were drug-related, the DA said.
“And then almost a decade ago, he was arrested and convicted for burglarizing his grandparents’ home for stealing a TV,” Gascon said. “He then remained pretty much away from the criminal justice system until the arrest in this particular case, where he was arrested for possession of drugs for personal use and possession of a gun.”
Gascon added that Flores “could have” gone to jail under his policies had the suspect been tried.
“We can ‘if’ this thing to death,” he said. “There’s certainly many opportunities for a catastrophe — a tragedy — to have occurred, but the reality is that when you have the history that this individual had, the outcome was appropriate under the circumstances.”
The district attorney, who is facing a recall effort, added that prosecutors must “continue to work toward a safer community” by “doing things we know that work,” including interventions for those on probation, transitional services for those getting out of prison to keep them out of prison, trauma recovery, working employment and housing services, and so on.
“I urge everyone to ensure that we do not overreact here and that we do the things that we know that work,” Gascon continued.
Eric Siddall, vice president of the Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys Association, released a statement Tuesday condemning Gascon’s response to the two officer deaths.
“Under California law, Flores should have been in a state prison cell on the day he murdered the two officers. Instead, because of George Gascón’s policies, he was in a hotel room in El Monte beating his girlfriend until two officers responded for the call for help. Now two officers are dead,” Siddall said.
Paredes and Santana were responding to a local motel over reports of a possible stabbing when they encountered a suspect. A shootout occurred, and both officers were struck. They later died in a Los Angeles hospital, officials said.
Nineteen months prior, Siddall added, Gascon “issued an order that all strikes offenses that were charged by the prior district attorney were to be stricken.”