L.A. District Attorney Faces Questions After Felon Charged With Killing Tourist

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

It's hard to think of a state that's has more repressive gun control laws than California. But what happens when those restrictive laws are enforced by a District Attorney with a reputation and a history of treating violent offenders with kid gloves?


All too often, those offenders walk away with a slap on the wrist and a few years on probation. That's what happened to Leroy McCrary, who's accused of murdering a tourist from New Zealand at an upscale shopping mall last Tuesday. As the Los Angeles Times reports, McCrary was already a three-time convicted felon when he allegedly ran over 68-year-old Patricia McKay in the mall's parking lot. So why was he out on the streets? 

McCrary's first felony came in 2020, when he was convicted for making criminal threats. Last year, McCrary was accused of two other separate felonies; possessing a gun as a convicted felon, as well as robbing a man at gunpoint and stealing his Rolex watch. In both of those cases, McCrary ended up on probation instead of being sentenced to prison, and now there are lots of fingers being pointed at Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon and his team of prosecutors for allowing McCrary to skate with such a light sentence. 

Los Angeles County prosecutors defended their handling of the Santa Monica case, which officials several days ago said “had significant problems with proof.”

A spokesperson in the district attorney’s office said an inability to identify the defendant in the surveillance video hampered the case. Two witnesses were unable to identify the suspects, the spokesperson said, noting that the robber’s face was not shown in the video because he was wearing a mask.

She also said that prosecutors were unable to identify the item in the suspect’s hands, and that a confirmatory DNA test was never conducted on the robbery victim’s shirt, which called into question its accuracy.

“As a result of these issues, the management team ... authorized a plea offer that allowed [him] to be placed on probation with a suspended state prison sentence,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

Legal expert Louis Shapiro, a defense attorney not involved in the case, said to be admissible in California, a confirmatory DNA test is required to show the probability that the results are reliable. Still, he said, the fact that Santa Monica police had DNA made the robbery case stronger than most.

“It is very rare to pull DNA in a robbery case” before the trial stage, Shapiro said. “Quite frankly, the office usually gets that kind of confirmation down the road.”

Dmitry Gorin, a former prosecutor, said confirmatory DNA testing in a criminal case is a basic part of preparing for trial and does not mean that a case has problems of proof. 

Cody Green, president of the Santa Monica Police Officers Assn., said that investigators had plenty of time to get a confirmatory DNA test and that the plea deal was made before any preliminary hearings were conducted.

“This case was as solid a case as they come,” Green said.


If the eyewitnesses to the robbery weren't able to positively identify McCrary as the assailant, it was even more important for prosecutors to do the confirmatory DNA test on the physical evidence in their possession. But as Cody Green pointed out, prosecutors struck a deal with McCrory at the first given opportunity, which suggests that they were never seriously pursuing this case. 

The L.A. Times report is vague about the circumstances of McCrary's probationary sentence for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, but Gascon has some explaining to do there as well. Under California law, McCrary was eligible for a six-year prison term thanks to his previous felony conviction, but instead he was able to serve his probationary sentence at the same time he was on probation for the armed robbery. Why? 

Maybe because Gascon has an issue with prosecuting violent offenders to the fullest extent of the law. Gascon's all in favor of more gun control laws, mind you. It's those pesky laws against armed robbery, assault, and even murder that he seems to find so problematic. 

Gascon had multiple opportunities to put McCrary behind bars for his crimes. And it sounds like prosecutors didn't just fail to do so, but that they never even tried to throw the book at McCrary. As a result, he walked... and now he's accused of killing a 68-year-old woman as he was driving away from the scene of another attempted robbery. 

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