How a California cop killer "slipped through the cracks" of supervised probation

How a California cop killer "slipped through the cracks" of supervised probation

The shortest explanation: there aren’t just cracks in L.A. County’s probation system, but gaping chasms.

Back on June 14th police in El Monte, California were called out to a motel on reports of a domestic disturbance. When officers Joseph Santana and Michael Paredes arrived on scene, they were ambushed by a man named Justin Flores; a convicted felon who, despite being on supervised probation, had been ignored by the system in recent months despite multiple reports that he was violating the terms of the probation he received in a plea deal on gun charges.

In fact, according to a scathing new report issued by the Los Angeles County Office of the Inspector General, Flores hadn’t seen a probation officer in the six months prior to his ambush attack on officers, and had only one solitary visit with an officer in the 16 months between the time he accepted his plea bargain and he took his own life after murdering Santana and Paredes.

The department also repeatedly failed to initiate “desertion” proceedings that could have resulted in Flores’ arrest, even after it lost touch with him for three months in 2021, according to the inspector general’s office.

While initial frustrations with the case focused on how Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s progressive policies might have impacted Flores’ sentencing, the probation department’s actions have garnered intense scrutiny more recently.

Issues started early in Flores’ time under the probation department’s supervision, according to the inspector general’s report, which was made public Thursday at a Probation Oversight Commission meeting. Officers were unable to locate him during a three-month period starting in June 2021 and failed to make a “desertion report,” which could have triggered a hearing resulting in the revocation of Flores’ probation.

From January to March of this year, probation officials again could not make in-person contact with Flores for three months, according to the inspector general’s report. While staff indicated a desertion report had been filed, no record of a report exists, according to the inspector general.

The most concerning information came to light in the weeks leading up to the officers’ murders. In early June, Flores’ girlfriend’s mother called the probation department to allege he was using PCP, carrying a gun and physically abusing her daughter.

Separately, Flores’ mother told The Times earlier this year that she also called his probation officer to report her son had been abusing drugs for months, a relapse triggered by his cousin’s murder in Commerce.

Eric Bates, a special assistant inspector general, told the L.A. County Probation Oversight Commission on Thursday that none of the information referred by Flores’ girlfriend’s mother was forwarded to local law enforcement.

This is just a preliminary report, by the way, so it’s quite possible that even more damning information will be coming out in the next few weeks.

Have you heard anything from Gavin Newsom about this failure of government? What about Attorney General Rob Bonta? I haven’t been able to find any news stories quoting either individual expressing outrage over the inability of the L.A. County probation system to keep Flores under the slightest bit of supervision since these murders took place in mid-June. During that same time period, however, Newsom and Bonta have both been busy going after legal gun owners; with the governor signing more than a dozen new gun control laws and Bonta’s office both defending the state’s gun laws (old and new alike) in court and “accidentally” leaking the personal information of hundreds of thousands of legal gun owners.

Flores never should have received that sweetheart plea deal from Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon in the first place, but once he did it was up to the county to make sure he was abiding by the terms of his probation. Instead, he repeatedly disregarded the law with absolutely no consequence, and two police officers lost their lives as a result.

None of California’s gun control laws stopped Flores from illegally acquiring a gun on multiple occasions, and the state’s criminal justice system repeatedly failed to hold him to account. With California Democrats more inclined to turn law-abiding citizens into paperwork criminals than to address the fundamental problems in the criminal justice system, violent offenders like Flores are only going to become more emboldened in the future… and both law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers are going to be put at risk as a result.