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Gang tied to killing of two El Monte police officers is swept up on federal charges


Federal investigators, El Monte police and L.A. County sheriff’s deputies arrested alleged members of the Quiet Village gang on Wednesday morning, naming the group in a series of indictments that accuse them of conspiring to commit murder, violent crimes and drug trafficking.

The cases stem from the killing of two El Monte police officers last June during a confrontation at a motel with a member of the gang. Officers Michael Paredes and Joseph Santana were responding to a report of domestic violence when Justin Flores — a documented member of the Quiet Village gang with multiple prior convictions — shot them in the head.

In the wake of the double homicide, a joint task force of local police and federal agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has targeted the Whittier area-based gang with ties to the Mexican Mafia.

Several suspected members of the gang’s leadership were taken into custody Wednesday.

“This morning, law enforcement officers fanned out across the San Gabriel Valley and arrested 11 defendants on federal and state charges,” U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada said at a news conference announcing the cases, alongside officials from the FBI and ATF, El Monte’s police chief and Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna.

Estrada said 10 people face federal charges, three of whom remain fugitives. Five others were arrested on local charges, he said.

One of the federal indictments alleges violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, and some of those charged were already behind bars in connection with other cases.

Estrada said the investigation also targeted the Varrio Locos gang that associates with Quiet Village. Estrada said Quiet Village is a small gang of about 40 members that formed decades ago and has been extremely violent. He said the gang celebrated the killings of the two police officers at an illegal underground gambling establishment it operated.

In addition to the killing of the officers, the gang and its members have been tied to at least one other killing and one attempted murder as part of its organized narcotics trade. Estrada said the gang was behind an attempted murder in El Monte in January 2022. “The victim was struck with at least eight bullets and severely wounded,” he said.

A gang member who was involved as a getaway driver reported the crime to police, he said. The gang members obtained police reports on the incident and targeted the informant. That led to a shooting on March 5, 2022, when members of the gang opened fire on a vehicle in the City of Commerce, killing a woman who was driving.

“They murdered the driver of that vehicle,” Estrada said, adding that a Varrio Locos gang member used Facebook Messenger to attempt to sell the ghost gun that was used in that shooting.

The killing of Santana and Paredes occurred June 14 last year when the officers were responding to a report of domestic violence at El Monte’s Siesta Inn. The officers were able to get the purported victim out of the motel room, but Flores emerged from a bathroom and shot them both in the head, police said.

Flores stole a gun from one of the fallen officers and ran into the motel parking lot, where he engaged in a gun battle with other officers. Authorities say he fell to the ground before taking his own life.

The families of officers Santana and Paredes have filed litigation over the circumstances that allowed Flores to be free at the time of the shootings, alleging a combination of poor supervision by the Los Angeles County Probation Department and a plea deal that was struck in 2021 as part of Dist. Atty. George Gascón’s broad sentencing reforms.

Flores was on probation as part of a plea deal struck in 2021 after he’d been arrested on suspected possession of a firearm and methamphetamine. With a prior burglary conviction, Flores could have faced several years in prison under California’s “three strikes” law.

But the prosecutor assigned to the case said he couldn’t seek the enhanced sentence because of one of many sweeping policy changes Gascón made on his first day in office, according to a document reviewed by The Times.

Gascón had enacted a policy barring strike enhancements in late 2020, but it was later deemed illegal by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. A spokesperson for the office also said last year that the prosecutor on Flores’ case could have requested a policy exemption if they believed the defendant was especially dangerous, and that no such request was made. Gascón also argued that the plea deal was consistent with similar offers made by his predecessor’s administration.

The Probation Department came under scrutiny after a Times investigation revealed Flores had not received a single in-person visit from a probation officer for at least six months before the killings.

In the days before the shooting, probation officials also learned Flores was allegedly in possession of a gun, using drugs, and beating a woman he was in a relationship with. All are violations of the terms of his probation and could have triggered an arrest. A preliminary report by the L.A. County Office of Inspector General later revealed probation officers saw Flores in person just one time during the 16 months he was under county supervision.


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