LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón outlined his reasons for why his office allowed the alleged killer of two El Monte police officers back on the streets instead of behind bars.
During a press conference Tuesday, Gascón said the suspect, Justin Flores, had "no history of violence" prior to the incident that killed Corporal Michael Paredes and officer Joseph Santana earlier in the month.
"It was basically someone that had been drug addicted for many years. He had been arrested mostly for drug related offenses," Gascón said of Flores.
The LA County DA adds it was "almost a decade ago" since Flores was arrested and convicted of burglarizing and stealing his own grandparents' TV.
The press conference comes as Gascón received blame from some for letting the alleged gunman Justin Flores – a man with an extensive criminal record dating back to 2010 – end up back on the streets and not behind bars. Flores, 35, was offered a plea deal by Gascón's office in 2021.
Flores, who officials say is a known gang member, received the bare minimum sentence with no jail time and was placed on probation.
"This individual should have been in custody for at least 32 months," said LA County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami earlier in the month.
Gascón is now pleading with the public to be patient with what he calls an "imperfect system."
"When people are arrested for serious crimes, we work hard to ensure that there are serious consequences, including lengthy periods of incarceration," he said. "I know this is frustrating to hear and it may not help heal the wounds for some. But 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."
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The LA County DA adds he said harsh punishments won't make communities feel any safer.
"I urge everyone to ensure that we do not overreact here and that we do the things that we do all the work," Gascón said.
During a different press conference last week, Olga Garcia – the mother of Joseph Santana – blasted Gascón over the rumor that the LA County DA is allegedly paying for Flores' funeral.
"Yesterday, I was slapped in the face when I was told that Gascón is going to pay for the criminal's funeral," Garcia said Friday.
Hours before Garcia made that claim last week, Gascón issued the following statement online denying the rumor:
"There have been rumors surfacing today that the DA’s office will pay for the funeral services for the person responsible for the murders of two El Monte officers. Those rumors are unfounded and incredibly disrespectful to the families and colleagues of the two fallen officers. We also hope people will stop playing politics with trauma and that we can all get serious about how we prevent serious violence before it begins. We will be working with anyone who is willing to solve these problems."