LA District Attorney Gascon named in $25M police officer wrongful death claim

El Monte Police Officers Killed
A makeshift memorial for El Monte Police officers Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana is displayed in front of El Monte City Hall in El Monte, Calif., on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. The pair were killed in a shootout along with the suspect the day before while investigating a possible stabbing in a suburban Los Angeles motel. (Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP) Keith Birmingham/AP

LA District Attorney Gascon named in $25M police officer wrongful death claim

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The widow of a police corporal gunned down at a motel has filed a $25 million claim against Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, saying he was to blame for the slaying by a gang member who should have been in jail.

Suspect Justin Flores was given a 20-day jail sentence in 2021 when part of a gun possession charge was dropped in exchange for a no-contest plea in court, sheriff’s officials said.

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He was shot to death on June 14 by backup deputies who responded to gunfire that killed El Monte police Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana.

“It is the DA’s responsibility to make sure that he is following his legal obligations and following the law,” Janine Paredes said Tuesday, per City News Service. “And unfortunately, in this situation, and in many situations, this is not being done. The law is not being followed by our district attorney and making sure that the California Three Strike law is being put into play.”

The three-strikes law lengthens subsequent criminal convictions of violent felons but must be filed as a separate charge. Gascon ordered his prosecutors to ignore this law, a mandate that was ultimately deemed illegal by a judge.

Paredes died when he and Santana responded to a disturbance call at a motel room. They knocked on the door and Flores opened it, firing at the officers. Flores fled to the parking lot where he encountered the sheriff’s deputies who shot him.

The filing of a claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. Also named in the claim is the Los Angeles County Probation Department, which did not have regular visits to monitor Flores after he had been released from jail on a gun case where he served 20 days instead of 18 months.

“No record of assigned Probation Department staff initiating ‘desertion’ during 3-month period of no contact with probationer,” a June 2021 probation report said. This was followed up with an entry for December 2021 saying, “First and only in-person meeting with assigned Probation Department staff and probationer.”

Attorney Michael J. Peacock, who represents Paredes, said using the word negligent to describe Gascon is an understatement.

“For reasons currently unknown and with overwhelming indifference, Justin Flores was allowed to continue his rampage of criminal violence against the unsuspecting people, including two dedicated police officers,” Peacock said. “The District Attorney’s Office and the county Probation Department created an opportunity for an already violent man to take the life of Michael Paredes, a beloved husband, father, friend, son, and police officer.”

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The claim outlined Flores’s criminal history, including the revocation of his probation a day before the shooting after Flores had assaulted his girlfriend. Yet he was not taken into custody.

Gascon issued the following statement in response to the claim: “Our hearts go out to the family of Sgt. Paredes. His tragic murder is a devastating loss to both his family, friends, and the community he bravely served. We have nothing but empathy for those who are suffering. We were not informed that Sgt. Paredes’s widow intended to file a lawsuit against our office. We have not reviewed the legal documents and cannot comment at this time.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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