Probation officers visited El Monte cop killer once in 16 months

In the weeks before Justin Flores shot and killed two El Monte police officers, Los Angeles County probation officers received multiple reports that he had used drugs, obtained a gun and assaulted his girlfriend, all violations of probation terms set by local law enforcement were never reported. The officials announced on Thursday.

The parole department’s lax oversight of Flores, which gunned down officers Joseph Santana and Michael Paredes after they responded to a domestic violence incident in June, was the subject of a county investigation sparked by a report in the Times that said revealed that parole officers had not seen him in person in the six months prior to the murders.

On Wednesday, the District Office of the Inspector General presented its initial findings to the Parole Oversight Commission, raising further questions about the Parole Department’s handling of Flores. In the 16 months that Flores was under the department’s supervision, only one official visited him in person, according to the inspector general’s report.

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

As a documented gang member, Flores had a long criminal record that included convictions for burglary and drug possession, court records show. Last year he was placed on parole as part of a plea bargain after being arrested for gun possession.

Santana and Paredes were responding to a report of domestic violence at the Siesta Inn on June 14, authorities said. Officers were able to get the alleged victim from the motel room, but Flores then came out of a bathroom and shot both officers in the head, police said. Flores stole a gun from one of the fallen officers and ran into the motel parking lot, where he exchanged gunfire with other responding officers. Authorities say he fell to the ground before taking his own life.

While initial frustration with the case centered on how Los Angeles County Dist. atty George Gascón’s progressive policies may have had an impact on Flores’ conviction, and the parole department’s actions have come under intense scrutiny lately.

The problems began early in Flores’ time under the supervision of the Parole Department, according to the Inspector General’s report, released Thursday at a meeting of the Parole Supervision Commission. Officials were unable to locate him for a three-month period beginning in June 2021 and failed to produce a “desertion report” that could have triggered a hearing that would have resulted in Flores’ parole being revoked.

From January to March this year, parole officers were again unable to make personal contact with Flores for three months, according to the inspector general’s report. While employees indicated that a desertion report was filed, according to the inspector general, there is no record of a report.

The most worrying information came to light in the weeks before the officers were killed. In early June, the mother of Flores’ girlfriend called the parole department and claimed he had used PCP, carried a gun and physically abused her daughter.

Separately, Flore’s mother told the Times earlier this year that she also called his parole officer to report her son had been abusing drugs for months, a relapse sparked by the murder of his cousin in Commerce.

Eric Bates, a deputy special inspector, told the LA County Parole Commission Thursday that none of the information provided by Flores’ girlfriend’s mother has been released to local law enforcement.

He didn’t specifically address the information Flore’s mother gave to the Times, which denies her son molested his girlfriend.

The inspector general’s investigation could take another 45 days, Bates said. When asked by the oversight commission, parole officer Adolfo Gonzales said the department is reviewing its threat analysis tools and case counts of individual officers to better understand what happened in the Flores case.

But Gonzales also warned that Flores’ fall could be an outlier. He said he’s reluctant to make a habit of arresting parole officers for technical violations like missed check-ins or drug tests.

Earlier this year, a senior probation officer told The Times that personal visits would have been crucial in monitoring Flores, who had a long history of offenses and was known to struggle with drug addiction. Considering Flore’s mother said her son started using drugs again in March, a personal visit would have raised the alarm earlier, the official said.

The day after the killings, Gonzales called an “emergency meeting” to order an audit of field contacts between officers and probation officers, an officer previously told The Times. The parole department never responded to questions about the meeting.

Times contributor Richard Winton contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-11/probation-officers-only-visited-el-monte-cop-killer-once-in-16-months Probation officers visited El Monte cop killer once in 16 months

Alley Einstein

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