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The deceased suspect accused of killing two California police officers during a shootout was a gang member on probation for a weapons charge after receiving a lenient sentence under a plea deal.
Justin William Flores is accused of killing two El Monte police officers Tuesday night.
He had a previous strike conviction ad received two years probation for a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The sentence is in accordance with the policies of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon, who was recently taken to task by a state appeals court over his refusal to prosecute three-strike cases.
That allowed Flores to plead no contest and receive a light sentence despite having a strike on his criminal record.
The city of El Monte announced Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were killed in the line of duty. (City of El Monte)
Sources in the district attorney’s office told Fox News that if Flores would have been prosecuted in February 2021 under the normal procedure, he would have likely been sentenced to up to three years in prison.
The revelation is likely to direct more criticism at Gascon, who faces a recall over his policies. On Wednesday, the recall campaign said they had collected the number of signatures needed to let voters decide.
Flores’ first strike stems from a conviction for burglarizing his grandparent’s home more than a decade ago. The felony firearms charge came out of a 2020 arrest where he was also charged for possession of drugs for personal use, the DA’s office said.
“The sentence he received in the firearm case was consistent with case resolutions for this type of offense given his criminal history and the nature of the offense,” a statement from Gascon’s office to Fox News said. “At the time the court sentenced him, Mr. Flores did not have a documented history of violence.”
Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were responding to a local motel over reports of a possible stabbing when they encountered a suspect. A shootout broke out and both officers were struck.
They later died in a Los Angeles hospital, officials said.
El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona said the two El Monte officers were “ambushed while trying to save a family.” (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department )