Embattled Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon may have to cover the funeral costs of a violent gang member who gunned down two cops under a policy he introduced, a former DA told The Post Thursday.
Gascon — already facing recall efforts — has faced mounting backlash after it was revealed Justin Flores, 35, was out on probation for carrying a gun when he fatally shot El Monte officers, Michael Paredes and Joseph Santana, in a firefight at a motel Tuesday night.
Flores was also killed.
“Now it looks like Gascon will pay for the funeral of the man who murdered the the two El Monte officers,” former LA County DA, Steve Cooley, told The Post.
When Gascon was elected in late 2020, he introduced a directive that states his office, through the Bureau of Victims Services, will “contact the families of individuals killed by police and provide support services including funeral, burial and mental health services immediately following the death regardless of the state of the investigation or charging decision.”
Cooley said that directive will apply in Flores’ case because he was shot dead by the officers during the deadly exchange.
“He said his office, through the Victims’ Program, would pay for the cost of burial and counseling of the families of anyone killed by police officers,” Cooley said.
Gascon’s office didn’t immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on his policy.
Cooley, who was the LA DA from 2000 to 2012, went on to slam Gascon’s progressive policies — insisting that Flores shouldn’t have been free at the time he shot dead the two officers.
“The tragic situation of the two El Monte officers being murdered is a direct result of George Gascón’s polices,” Cooley said.
He added that Gascon’s deputy DAs had been instructed to not oppose when a crime is “subject to being on probation.”
“This individual who killed the officers was enabled to do so by Gascon’s policies. The murderer should’ve been sent to prison,” he said.
Flores — who had his gang allegiance tattooed on his face — had served two prison terms for burglary and car theft more than a decade ago.
Then, in March 2020, he was arrested and charged with possessing a firearm as a felon. He ended up pleading no contest in February last year to the felony charge that could have sent him back to prison for three years.
Instead, Flores was sentenced to two years of probation and 20 days in jail.
News of his plea deal sparked immediate outrage, but the DA’s office on Thursday stood by the sentencing decision.
“Mr Flores was convicted of burglarizing his grandparents’ home more than 10 years ago, resulting in a strike. He was arrested in 2020 and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and for possession of narcotics for personal use. Last year, Mr. Flores pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, a felony,” the DA’s office said in a statement.
“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. At the time the court sentenced him, Mr. Flores did not have a documented history of violence.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was among those to lash out, telling The Post the DA’s policies were only further hurting crime victims.
“George Gascon’s self-proclaimed ‘science-driven’ reforms have eviscerated the entire architecture of our justice system and mock the oath of office he took,” Villanueva said in a statement.
“His reforms victimize our victims even more after the tragedies they suffered. Not even peace officers, as the murder of the El Monte Police Department officers has shown, are safe from his science experiments.”
Jonathan Hatami, an LA senior prosecutor and support of the recall movement against Gascon, said Flores was given probation as a result of the DA’s “blanket policies.”
“Gascon didn’t look at this man’s record, he didn’t follow the law, he didn’t consider public safety, and he didn’t look at the evidence,” Hatami told The Post.
“He just gave a dangerous person with a long criminal record, who had been to prison twice, probation. And he called this ‘criminal justice reform.’ This was not reform or progress. And now, two honorable and courageous police officers are dead.”
He added, “George Gascon doesn’t bare full responsibility for this — the murderer does. But George bears some responsibility. When you enact blanket policies that completely sacrifice public safety, especially when your number one job is to protect the public, and innocent people are murdered because of your policies, you bear responsibility.”
The deadly shooting unfolded a day after Flores’ probation officer had requested he return to court later this month.
Court records don’t indicate why Flores was due back in court, but the LA Times reported he had violated his probation by allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.
It wasn’t immediately clear why he wasn’t arrested in the wake of that incident. The county’s probation department declined to comment when reached by The Post on Thursday.
Paredes and Santana, the slain officers, had been responding to reports a woman had possibly been stabbed when they encountered Flores at the motel.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide Capt. Andrew Meyer said the officers had “confronted the suspect” before gunfire erupted in the motel room. Flores then fled into the parking lot where more gunfire was exchanged.
Investigators didn’t know if the two officers, who both died in hospital, were shot inside the room or in the parking lot.
Diana Flores, who described herself as the suspect’s ex-wife and had his first name tattooed on her chest, told KCBS that Flores had stabbed her a day earlier and she’d fled to the motel to escape him – but he tracked her down.
She said she tried to warn the officers that Flores was armed as she apologized to their families.
“I am so deeply sorry, my deepest condolences for saving me, I’m so, so, so sorry,” Diana told the outlet. “They didn’t deserve that, or their families. They really didn’t. They were trying to help me and I told them before they went in the room, ‘Don’t go in. He has a gun.’”