Suspect in fatal shooting of Pomona police officer in court

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The man accused of gunning down a Pomona police officer at the end of a chase that turned into a shooting and hour-long standoff in March appeared in court Tuesday for his arraignment.

Cameras were not allowed in court for the arraignment of Isaias De Jesus Valencia, but his attorney said she had recently taken over his case and was ill-prepared with 30 pages of new discovery from prosecutors.

His plea to the court was postponed for a second time, this time to July.

Valencia, 38, of Pomona, was charged in March with capital murder and is being held without bail.

He is accused of the killing of Officer Gregory Casillas, 30, of Upland in March. The murder charge against him includes special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer and murder for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest.

Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Valencia.

He was also charged with seven counts of attempted murder and one count of each of fleeing a pursuing peace officer's vehicle and possession of a firearm by a felon.

The shooting occurred about 9:10 p.m. in the 1400 block of South Palomares Street, according to Deputy Trina Schrader of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which was assisting Pomona police in the investigation.

Casillas was killed and Officer Alex Nguyen was wounded, reportedly shot in the face while coming to Casillas' aid. Late Monday morning, police announced that Nguyen had been released from the hospital "and is doing well.''

Valencia was arrested following a standoff of more than 15 hours.

Casillas had been with the department since 2014, though he was only sworn in as a Pomona police officer in September 2017, and was just about to finish field training. He is survived by behind his wife and two young children -- a 4-year-old and an 8-month-old -- as well as his mother, father and two brothers.

"Greg is a hero. A man to look up to,'' Pomona Police Chief Michael Olivieri said. "He left his family at home to protect yours, and his ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten. Our Pomona police officers were out doing what they always do, putting themselves in harm's way to protect Pomona, a community that we love.''

The confrontation began when Pomona police officers attempted to stop Valencia for alleged reckless driving. A pursuit ensued, which ended when the suspect's vehicle crashed into a parked car and he fled on foot, according to sheriff's Capt. Chris Bergner.

"The suspect ran into an apartment complex where officers gave chase,'' Bergner said. "As he barricaded himself in a bedroom, officers attempted to contact him and he began firing through the door, striking two officers.''

LASD crisis negotiators tried repeatedly to persuade Valencia to surrender during the standoff, but he refused, Viera said. Special Enforcement Bureau deputies then deployed tear gas and he still refused to surrender.

"SEB entered the location where the suspect was barricaded and deployed an LASD K-9,'' Viera said Saturday. "Ultimately, the suspect was taken into custody.''

Valencia's friends said he is a father of three who used to be involved in his community but had been battling depression and substance abuse in recent years. During the standoff, the apartment building was evacuated as the SWAT team maintained its deployment.

Earlier Saturday, police took Casillas' body to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office in a solemn procession of squad cars as officers from several Southland police departments lined the streets. Tributes and prayers for Casillas and his family, and the wounded officer, poured in all day on social media, including one from Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

"Another hero gone too soon,'' Beck tweeted. "These tragedies are occurring too often, and the pains of sacrifice will never be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with the @PomonaPD today.''

The Pomona Purpose Church held a prayer vigil for Casillas at 6 p.m. Saturday at Pomona police headquarters, where a memorial of flowers and candles continued to grow Monday.

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