The mother of one of the officers fatally shot in a gun battle in El Monte earlier this week says that Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is to blame for the death of her son and his partner.
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 afternoon to voice concerns over Gascón’s policies, which she said led to the early release Justin Flores, the suspected shooter.
“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.
Flores, 35, was on probation at the time of the shootout that took the lives of Santana and Cpl. Michael Paredes. He had a previous strike on his record, court records show.
Two months after Gascon took office, Flores pleaded guilty to the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2021. Two other charges were dropped as part of the plea deal and Flores received two years of probation and 20 days in jail.
“As a mother, my life is destroyed,” Garcia said through tears. “Joseph was murdered by a criminal who should have been in jail.”
LA Deputy DA Eric Siddall said at the press conference that Flores should have been given a minimum sentence of 32 months pursuant to the California strike law.
The petition to recall Gascón had surpassed 566,857 signatures as of Wednesday, according to organizers behind the recall effort.
“Gascón’s just letting all these criminals out and they just keep doing one crime after the other. And that guy should’ve been in jail, if he wouldn’t have been out, my son and the other officer would still be here,” Garcia said.
“We need death row and three strikes laws to come back,” Garcia said.
Gascon founded his campaign on the promise of sweeping criminal justice reform. Part of that reform, was a directive to not use prior strike enhancements during the sentencing of a current offense.
A statement from the district attorney’s office said executive managers had reviewed the facts of Flores’ case and found the plea deal to be on par with previous administrations.
“What Gascon and his office wanted was fairer sentencing and police system,” said Laurie Levenson, a professor of criminal law at Loyola Law School. “But having that type of blanket directive created this risk.”
El Monte announced its City Hall and all city facilities would close Monday, June 19, out of respect for the officers as the city continues to mourn. A public vigil at the police department is scheduled for Saturday evening.
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