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Officer's widow to file claim against LA County District Attorney George Gascón over June shooting death

Officer's widow to file claim against LA County District Attorney George Gascón over June shooting
Officer's widow to file claim against LA County District Attorney George Gascón over June shooting 02:30

The widow of slain El Monte Police Sgt. Michael Paredes and her attorney are scheduled to announce legal action against L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón and the county Tuesday over the sergeant's shooting death in June.

The D.A. faced criticism following the shooting deaths of Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana in June after it was determined the gunman -- Justin William Flores -- was on probation for a weapon violation that critics contended should have landed him behind bars.    

"It is the D.A.'s responsibility to make sure that he is following his legal obligations and following the law," Paredes said at a downtown Los Angeles news conference announcing the claim. "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."

Her attorney, Michael J. Peacock, said if the district attorney and Probation Department "had both simply done their jobs ... Sgt. Paredes would be here today, as well as Officer (Joseph) Santana."

A representative for the District Attorney's Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the claim, but Gascón has defended his office's handling of the gunman's previous prosecution.

The 42-year-old Paredes and his partner, Officer Joseph Santana, 31, were ambushed and killed by Justin Flores when responding to a call at the Siesta Inn Motel on June 14.

The claim includes a list of Flores' prior convictions, which include vehicle theft, resisting arrest and burglary.

"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. To call this a tragically negligent decision by the D.A. is an understatement."

The claim alleges that despite Flores' extensive criminal record, instead of being in custody he was instead allowed to "freely roam and prey on unsuspecting residents and workers in El Monte" because of Gascon's progressive policies.

After the shooting, critics noted that Flores, despite his record, was given a plea deal last year that allowed him to avoid prison time for being in possession of a handgun. As a result of the plea, Flores was only ordered to spend 20 days in jail and was placed on two years probation.

A day before the fatal shootings, Flores' probation officer filed for a revocation of his probation because Flores allegedly assaulted his girlfriend the week prior, yet Flores was still not taken into custody, the claim alleges.

Flores' mother called her son's probation officer in June to let the officer know her son had begun using drugs again, the claim states.

Flores, 35, died by suicide on the sidewalk outside the motel.

Gascón in June insisted that the 2021 plea deal with Flores was "appropriate under the circumstances."

"We had an individual who was drug addicted for many years," Gascón said. "He had been arrested multiple times for a variety of low-level offenses. (Last year's) case was a case where he stole a television when he broke into his grandparents' house and he was high at the time. He went through a lengthy period of time without any contact with the criminal justice system.

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