Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has bypassed the county’s district attorney in favor of federal prosecution of four people accused of killing an off-duty police officer — reportedly fearing the local prosecutor would go too easy on them.
The four suspects — three alleged gang members and the fourth an associate — were charged with robbery and murder in the slaying of LAPD officer Fernando Arroyos.
Arroyos was house-shopping with his girlfriend on Jan. 10 near the Watts area of Los Angeles when they were robbed at gunpoint. Investigators say when Arroyos fought back, the suspects shot him, KABC7 News reported.
"We definitely had a conversation with the local DAs and their response was not satisfactory to the gravity of this situation,” Villanueva, a Democrat, said of the office of LA County DA George Gascón, the news outlet reported.
“They were consistent with the special orders from the District Attorney ... and I believe their plan was just prosecute a simple murder with no gun enhancements, no gang enhancements, nothing. And that did not really cover the depravity of this crime.”
Gascón’s office, though it disputed that it was involved in talks with Villanueva, didn’t object to federal prosecution.
"We support the federal authorities taking the case and will be in communication with all the parties involved,” the DA’s office told the news outlet in a statement.
“It was indicated to us that the case was referred to the federal authorities, who filed charges. As such, we did not have an opportunity to review the case.”
When he took office a year ago Gascón, a Democrat, instituted a variety of reforms aimed at reducing many criminal penalties, including blanket orders that prohibited prosecutors from filing most sentencing enhancements, which can amplify prison time when crimes involve gangs, guns, repeat offenders, or special categories of victims, KNBC News reported.
If convicted in federal court, the four suspects potentially face the death penalty, or a minimum of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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