Los Angeles, CA – The sister of a Los Angeles police officer who was murdered by a group of gang members said the county’s new district attorney has “thrown away” safety in favor of criminals.
Anahi Diaz’s brother, 24-year-old Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer Juan Jose Diaz, was fatally shot while standing in line at a taco stand with his girlfriend and her two brothers in 2019.
The off-duty officer and his friends tried to leave the area when the suspect brandished a firearm, but the gunman opened fire on them anyway, the Associated Press reported at the time.
In an interview with FOX News on Thursday, Diaz said Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon’s sweeping reforms and policy changes are “victimizing families” and crime victims.
“It’s really scary to be living in the city of LA right now,” Diaz said. “He should be protecting the people of LA. With these new laws and policies that he’s putting in, this is just giving a green light to criminals here.”
Since taking office in December, Gascon has eliminated the “three strikes” rule and cash bond and has refused to pursue the death penalty under any circumstance.
Gascon has also barred the prosecutors in his office from pursuing gun and gang enhancements, even as crime rates soar throughout the county, KTTV reported.
Members of his Hardcore Gang unit said Gascon plans to severely downsize or eliminate the unit by as early as next month.
The unit, which was established in 1979 and is among the longest-standing specialized units in the district attorney’s office, is responsible for handling Los Angeles County’s most complex, habitual, and heinous gang-related offenses, KTTV reported.
Diaz said criminals know they won’t be punished under Gascon’s administration, so they believe they “can run loose in the city.”
“Nothing’s going to affect them right now,” she told FOX News.
Diaz accused Gascon of “playing with people’s lives” and throwing away community members’ safety.
“Crime has gone through the roof,” she said. “It’s scary.”
The prosecutors who spoke to KTTV about the expected “dissolution” of the district attorney’s Hardcore Gang unit said gang members and criminals are becoming even more brazen in light of Gascon’s policies.
“We can already hear in jail calls and interviews with officers on the street telling us that the gang members are laughing at them,” one of the Hardcore Gang unit prosecutors said. “I mean, it’s undermined the credibility of law enforcement in its entirety.”
Prosecutors from the unit said dissolving the Hardcore Gang unit would be a major blow to marginalized communities, KTTV reported.
“The misnomer with my cases, because I do all gang violence cases, gang murder particularly, is that all of my victims are rival gang members, and that’s not true,” one of the prosecutors explained. “They miss their targets and they get their enemies wrong fully because of the way they look, whether that’s a Hispanic male with a shaved head or a Black male standing on the corner at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
One of the prosecutors said Los Angeles is considered to be “the birthplace of gangs in some ways,” KTTV reported.
“I think what Angelinos don’t understand…is that three out of four murders in Los Angeles are gang related,” the prosecutor added. “To not have a dedicated unit to protect the citizens of Los Angeles from these murders and from these absolutely horrific crimes – it’s shocking. I actually thought it was a joke until I realized, ‘Wow. They’re really gonna do it.’”
Gascon refused to confirm or deny the fate of the Hardcore Gang unit, saying only that it is a “personnel” issue and that his office is “evaluating functions,” KCBS reported.
“Since I took office, we have been evaluating…all the functions in this office, and I want to make sure that we move into a 21st century that will become a 21st century approach to our work,” he said, according to KCBS. “In the interim, we’re evaluating functions and we will continue to do so and look where the areas that we want to provide more resources and areas that we’re going to deemphasize.”
Gascon, a 66-year-old native of Cuba, was a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) assistant chief and police chief in Mesa, Arizona before he was elected district attorney of San Francisco and then ran for office in Los Angeles.
His anti-law enforcement stance has been met with resistance in his own office, where many prosecutors have accused him of behaving like a politician instead of as a prosecutor, the Daily Mail reported.
The Beverly Hills City Council recently approved a “no confidence” resolution against him due to his sweeping policy changes.
Gascon is also currently facing a recall effort, KCBS reported.
Officer Diaz was murdered off-duty at about 1 a.m. on July 27, 2019, after he confronted a man he saw vandalizing property while he was standing in line for food with his girlfriend and her two brothers, according to LAPD.
The vandal left the area after the confrontation.
That suspect later returned with a group of males and lifted his shirt to display a handgun.
The officer and his party tried to get in a car to leave the area, but the suspect opened fire on them anyway.
Officer Diaz was fatally shot, and another male victim was shot. The second victim survived.
Officer Diaz served the LAPD for two years.
Police later arrested three alleged Avenues Gang members in connection with Officer Diaz’s murder, the Associated Press reported.