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The sisters of an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer who was fatally shot in 2019 criticized L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón’s changes to sentencing enhancements on Tuesday while speaking outside of a hearing for two suspects charged in their brother’s death.

Juan Jose Diaz appears in a photo released by the Los Angeles Police Department on July 27, 2019.
Juan Jose Diaz appears in a photo released by the Los Angeles Police Department on July 27, 2019.

Francisco Talamantes, 23, and Cristian Adrian Facundo, 20, of Temecula, had previously been charged with murder and special circumstances alleging gang membership in the death of 24-year-old LAPD Officer Juan Diaz. The charges made them eligible for the death penalty.

But after winning a tight DA’s race in November, Gascón announced he was ending death penalty prosecution and doing away with special sentencing enhancements.

Diaz’s sisters said the changes are a major blow to their efforts to seek justice.

“With the new DA, it’s become a little harder for the victims,” Sarahy Diaz said. “We now feel like we are the ones that did something wrong, when we’re just literally trying to fight for our brother. He did nothing wrong.”

Anahi Diaz added that her family feels like they “don’t have anyone” on their side.

“A DA should go into court and be on the victim’s side and be able to do as much as he can to fight for the justice of our victim,” she said.

Facing pushback on the policy changes, Gascón reversed course and said he would issue sentencing enhancements in certain instances, including hate crimes, crimes against children and the elderly and other crimes that “meet certain criteria.”

Then late last year, the union representing L.A. County deputy district attorneys sued Gascón over his enhancements policy.

A rally in downtown L.A. Tuesday in support of Gascón’s policies was held during a hearing on the lawsuit.

Demonstrator Zakiya Prince, a campaign lead for the Repeal California’s Three Strikes Law Coalition, said the policies Gascon did away with were unjust, racist and tear communities apart.

Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, said that sentencing enhancements are “intended to address the harm caused by the perpetrator.”

“The real question is, should someone who assaults someone — punches them and causes a bruised face — be treated the same as, for example, the assault on Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium, where he has permanent brain damage and is disabled for life?”

Diaz, described as a dedicated and compassionate officer, was shot and killed while at a taco stand in Lincoln Heights on July 27, 2019. He was off duty at the time.

A woman also faces charges in connection with the attack that left another person wounded.