When the men in the black pickup truck yelled “come here” to pedestrian Hugo Flores at 12:40 a.m. in Sept. 2008, the Fullerton gangster had three handicaps that would make the chance encounter a life-altering experience.
Flores–who'd just turned 18 years old–was high on methamphetamine, suffered poor vision and, the clincher, possessed a partially loaded, occasionally operative, six-shot revolver.
That combination of factors led the 5-foot-5, newly-initiated Wicked Minds gangster nicknamed “Sly” to make the biggest mistake of his young life.
He raised the weapon and fired at the men, who happened to be Fullerton Police Department gang officers Jonathan Radus and Hugo Garcia.
Luckily, the weapon misfired and the officers pounced.
his defense, Flores claimed he thought the men who'd yelled at him might be
rival gangsters and he needed to act in self-defense. Before the confrontation, the officers had not blurted out, “police!” They weren't wearing traditional uniforms either, according to court records.
But a 2010 Orange County jury found
him guilty of attempted murder of a police officer, assault with a
firearm and street terrorism. Superior Court Judge Gregg L. Prickett
sentenced him to spend 38 years in a California prison.
Flores appealed to a higher court. Among several points, he challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against him, especially the testimony of a gang-expert cop. He said the jury shouldn't have been able to consider in his case a litany of prior crimes committed by other Wicked Minds members.
This week, a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana considered the case and rejected all of the defense arguments except for one. A panel of three justices reduced his prison sentenced by eight months after determining that Flores correctly argued that the street terrorism conviction wasn't constitutionally valid.
Upshot: He'll be in his 50s when he'll get his first chance to ask a parole board to let him return to freedom.
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.