LOS ANGELES - The sister of a man who was shot and killed by a juvenile gang member is outraged after the motion to have him prosecuted as an adult was withdrawn by District Attorney George Gascón as part of his new reforms, despite the fact that the murderer has continued to post his allegiance to his gang on social media while in custody.
In September 2017, 40-year-old Ontario Courtney’s car broke down in the wrong neighborhood in South LA, in an area that was controlled by the Hoover’s gang.
While he was waiting for AAA, a vehicle full of four Main Street Mafia Crips gang members spotted him, pulled up, and shot at him at least 36 times, according to prosecutors.
Ontario didn’t survive. He had been mistaken as a member of the Hoovers gang, according to prosecutors.
"My brother had no gang affiliation," said Aja Courtney, Ontario’s younger sister. "I can’t even put into words how much I miss him, me and him were 7 years apart, 7 days apart."
One of the shooters who was later charged Courtney’s murder was Main Street Mafia Crips member Jalen Yoakum, who was 17 at the time and had a lengthy criminal record.
Last December, when Jackie Lacey was DA, her office filed a motion to transfer Yoakum, now age 20, to adult court to be prosecuted as an adult.
Prosecutors pointed out that during his time in juvenile hall, Yoakum had continued to post his allegiance to the gang on social media, flashing gang signs in photos and posting the captions "They can’t hold da crip forever" and "Ima always put on for my section because my ni**as worth it, #freegangland.
Prosecutors also pointed to numerous photos of Yoakum posing with guns, as well as his tattoos and clothing with the letters "HK", meaning Hoover Killer.
They also found a disturbing Snapchat video of Yoakum recording himself doing practice drive by shootings by shooting a homeless man in the face with a paintball gun.
"And so we’re like, with all this evidence, it should be easy to transfer him to adult court," Courtney said. "And we’re right at the point when we were gonna do the transfer hearing when Gascón comes in and he’s like, this stops immediately.
Gascon withdrew the transfer motion upon taking office, and also filed to drop all gang and gun enhancements against Yoakum.
As part of his reforms, Gascón has stated his office will not prosecute any juveniles as adults, something he recently touted while discussing his first 100 days in office.
"We have ended the practice of prosecuting children as adults," Gascón said. "Since taking office, we have withdrawn 77 pending motions to transfer kids to adult court."
Dr. Rahn Minagawa, a psychologist who supports Gascón's juvenile policy, says minors are unable to control their emotional responses, and their brains don’t mature until age 25.
"Sixteen and seventeen year olds are not adults," he said. "Their brains are not fully developed, this is what we know from the science."
"I absolutely disagree," Courtney said. "I think that you and I, and most of the people in this country are outliers to that. We’ve all had underdeveloped brains before age 25, and we don’t make those same decisions and those same choices."
"If you wanna go out there and act like a man and shoot and kill people, then you should be treated that way," said Allyson Ostrowski, Courtney’s pro-bono attorney, and a former prosecutor herself.
"For Mr. Yoakum, you’ve been in the criminal justice system since you were 12 and you’ve been offered service after service, program after program, and you’ve not taken advantage of any of that," Ostrowski said. "You’ve just continued to be part of the gang, that makes you one of the people that needs to be tried as an adult."
This month, Yoakum pleaded guilty to his murder charge, and because he’s being prosecuted as a juvenile under Gascón, he will have to be released from custody by age 25, and possibly much sooner than that, because beginning this summer, California’s prison for juveniles, the Division of Juvenile Justice, is being phased out, by order of Governor Newsom.
"It’s extremely upsetting to have somebody that was just months shy of their 18th birthday only service 6-7 years on a murder, it’s just not enough time," Ostrowski said.
"They’re basically telling you that we’re gonna treat these juveniles like victims, your brother is no longer the victim," Courtney said. "It’s not just a slap in the face, it’s a danger to the community, when you really look at Gascon’s policy, several of his policies he says he’s addressing public safety, well if he cared about public safety, you wouldn’t put these guys back on the streets."
Courtney provided FOX 11 with emails showing she asked Gascón and his administration repeatedly why they wouldn’t make an exception to their juvenile policy in Yoakum’s case, but they never got an answer.
FOX 11 reached out to Gascón's office days ago for a comment on this report, but we never got a response.