George Gasc贸n Policy May Have Cut Prison Time for El Monte Gunman

The 35-year-old man who fatally shot two El Monte police officers this week could have faced additional prison time on a previous charge

District Attorney George Gasc贸n is facing backlash after a report revealed that a policy he introduced may have helped the gunman accused of killing two El Monte police officers on Tuesday get out of prison earlier than he might have on previous charges.

Justin Flores, 35, who also died in Tuesday鈥檚 altercation at the Siesta motel in El Monte, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and methamphetamine when he was arrested in 2020, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Nearly a decade prior, Flores was convicted of a burglary in 2011. Burglaries are considered to be strike offenses, which make suspects charged with later crimes eligible for harsher sentences, the Times reports. Therefore, Flores had one strike against him when he was charged in 2020.

But the prosecutor assigned to Flores鈥 cases, Deputy District Attorney Larry Holcomb, was forced to revoke the strike allegation due to a policy issued by Los Angeles County鈥檚 brand new reformer D.A. at the time鈥擥eorge Gasc贸n. The special directive prohibited prosecutors from filing strike allegations.

Gasc贸n鈥檚 directive was later deemed illegal by a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge, and in February 2021, Judge James Chalfant ruled that the policy violated California鈥檚 鈥渢hree strikes鈥 law, which requires prosecutors to file strike allegations whenever a defendant has a previous serious or violent felony conviction. Earlier this year, an appellate judge upheld Chalfant鈥檚 ruling.

Flores, who had been prohibited from carrying a gun since 2011, pleaded no contest to being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2021. Prosecutors agreed to drop all other charges, according to court records.

While the gun conviction could have sent him to prison for up to three years, by pleading no contest, Flores was sentenced to two years鈥 probation and 20 days in jail.

There鈥檚 no guarantee that Flores would have still been locked up when he shot to death Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana on Tuesday, but the removal of the strike allegation likely impacted Flores鈥 sentencing.

Ricardo Santiago, the spokesman for the district attorney鈥檚 office, told the Times that 鈥渆xperienced managers鈥 had reviewed the case and determined the sentencing given to Flores was consistent with those offered by previous administrations.

Shortly after Flores鈥 criminal history was revealed, critics of Gasc贸n鈥攚ho is already facing recall efforts鈥攚asted no time in blaming him for Tuesday鈥檚 tragic shooting. The co-chair behind Gasc贸n鈥檚 recall campaign said on Thursday that she is confident it received more than 30,000 signatures this week to oust the embattled district attorney, and that they have now gathered the 567,857 needed by July 6 to get rid of the reformer. But the group told Fox News that it is now working toward collecting 650,000 signatures due to the likelihood of some signatures being deemed invalid by L.A. County officials.

Former L.A. County D.A. Steve Cooley told the New York Post, that Gasc贸n might have to cover funeral costs for Flores. 鈥淗e said his office, through the Victims鈥 Program, would pay for the cost of burial and counseling of the families of anyone killed by police officers,鈥 Cooley said.

But Gasc贸n鈥檚 office quickly debunked the claim, saying that the 鈥渞umors are unfounded and incredibly disrespectful to the families and colleagues of the two fallen officers.鈥

鈥淲e hope people will stop playing politics with trauma and that we can all get serious about how we prevent serious violence before it begins,鈥 his office said in a statement. 鈥淲e will be working with anyone who is willing to solve these problems.鈥

Flores鈥 wife, Diana, told NBC Los Angeles that her late husband had previously attacked her and she warned the officers that he had a gun inside the motel room. She also alleged that he stabbed her days before the June 14 confrontation with police.

鈥淚 am so deeply sorry, my deepest condolences for saving me, I鈥檓 so, so, so sorry,鈥 she said. 鈥淭hey didn鈥檛 deserve that, or their families. They really didn鈥檛. They were trying to help me and I told them before they went in the room, 鈥楧on鈥檛 go in. He has a gun.鈥欌

At this point, the events leading up to the shooting remain unclear and the investigation is ongoing.

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