Family members and law enforcement groups on Friday demanded change following the shooting deaths of two El Monte police officers after learning that the suspect in the killings was on probation for a gun charge.
At a news conference outside the El Monte Police Department, where a memorial for the fallen officers had grown significantly, they demanded the ousting of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, calling his policies an “experiment” that has emboldened criminals.
Corporal Michael Paredes, 42, and Officer Joseph Santana, 31, were ambushed by gunfire from inside a motel room as soon as they responded to a reported stabbing at the Siesta Inn around 5:10 p.m. Tuesday.
At one point, the shooter came outside and exchanged gunfire with police.
When the shooting was over, the officers were taken to a local hospital where they were pronounced dead. Both fallen officers were raised in El Monte, were married and had children.
The gunman, Justin William Flores, was also killed in the gun battle. His weapon was found at his side.
Many on Friday said Flores should have been in prison on the day of the deadly encounter. Speakers included widows and family members of other officers killed in the line of duty.
“The only reason he was out on June 14 was because of George Gascón’s policies,” said Eric Siddall, vice president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys.
“George Gascón, you do not get to continue to use our streets and our brothers and our sisters in your experiment,” Ron Danison, president of the El Monte Police Officers’ Association, said, addressing the top prosecutor directly. “You have failed the public, you have failed these families.”
Olga Garcia, Santana’s mother, directly blamed her son’s death on Gascón, saying he “gives criminals more rights than police officers.”
“He has insane ideas about giving criminals a slap on the hand,” Garcia said. “We need to enforce our laws so more police officers don’t die.”
The District Attorney’s Office had previously explained that the probation sentence for the gun charge was consistent with case resolutions for that type of offense, and that at the time Flores was sentenced, he did not have a documented history of violence.
In an extended statement released Friday, spokesman Ricardo Santiago said “experienced managers” had reviewed the facts of the case and determined that the decision was “on par with offers in previous administrations.”
“Our office is committed to providing support for the loved ones of the victims who lost a life,” the statement read. “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.”