LOS ANGELES (NewsNation) — Facing a barrage of questions from both reporters and the community he serves, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon Tuesday defended his decision to grant parole to the man accused of ambushing and killing two El Monte police officers before turning the gun on himself.
Justin Flores, the 35-year-old gunman, was on probation for a gun charge when Officer Joseph Santana and Corporal Michael Paradis were ambushed and shot to death at a motel on June 14. Paradis was a 22-year veteran, a husband and father of two. Santana was a rookie, a husband and father of three.
In 2021, Flores was arrested on drug and gun charges but wasn’t put in jail due to the non-violent nature of his crimes.
“When you have the history that this individual had, the outcome was appropriate under the circumstances,” Gascon said.
Gascon acknowledged Flores’s lengthy rap sheet spanning more than a decade, including narcotics addition, low-level drug offenses, and a burglary charge against a family member, but said Flores has largely stayed away from trouble for years.
“When people are arrested for serious crimes, we work hard to ensure that there are serious consequences,” Gascon said.
Gascon and his lenient prosecution policies are up against a potential recall effort this November.
Olga Garcia, Santana’s mother, said as long as Gascon continues this approach to criminal justice, police officers and their families will live in fear on NewsNation’s Morning America this week.
“He’s for criminals, he’s not for victims. and as long as he is in office, he’s going to destroy more families,” Garcia said. “It’s not fair what happened to Joseph and Michael; they didn’t deserve this. If that criminal was locked up, they both would be here today.”
Gascon is a part of a recent wave of democratic district attorneys in cities across the nation. In general, their philosophy is that putting low-level criminals behind bars clogs up both the criminal courts and the nation’s jails and prisons.
Instead, Gascon recommends many of these low-level, non-violent criminals receive effective intervention and access to services like employment, housing and trauma recovery.