“There are two words to describe you, just pure evil,” San Diego Superior Court judge Blaine Bowman told Robert Ignacio Flores at his sentencing hearing on November 30.
Flores, 26, tried to kill Oceanside police officer Brad Hunter on June 19, 2017. Flores stared dully ahead and made no acknowledgment of the judge for more than an hour, throughout the entire hearing.
Judge Bowman, who heard the trial last month, remarked, “If Hunter were not a motorcycle cop, you would have killed him.” Experts testified that the motorcycle helmet saved Hunter’s life when Flores ran into him while driving a small Dodge sedan.
Bowman said, “Your plan was to kill him.” And, “You would be facing the death penalty if he were killed.” Flores continued to sit silent, with heavily lidded eyes. “I know you don’t care about the fact he survived,” Bowman continued. “You don’t care because you are a purely evil person.” And the judge sentenced Flores to the maximum possible sentence under California law, 29 years to life, for the attempted murder of a peace officer.
Before the judge made his remarks and pronounced sentence, three persons made “victim impact statements” to the court.
The chief of Oceanside police, Frank McCoy, spoke for three minutes. He pointed out that officer Hunter was targeted because he was wearing a uniform. “It was not a personal vengeance, but a personal satisfaction for the defendant to kill someone who represented law and order,” McCoy declared. And then he asked the judge for “the most severe punishment as allowed by law.”
Brad Hunter’s wife, Vanessa Hunter, spoke for ten minutes. She was remarkably composed when she described getting the phone call informing her that her husband was on the way to the hospital. She said that as she drove to the hospital she “pleaded with God not to let Brad die.” After her husband regained consciousness, Mrs. Hunter said she told him what happened, and her husband responded in wonder, “He did it on purpose? Wow.” She remarked of her husband, “Emotionally, he is an absolute rock.” She informed the crowded courtroom that the large skin grafts her husband suffered would be lifelong reminders of the event.
In her closing remarks, Hunter turned her attention to Flores, who was seated only a few feet from where she stood. “Our good prevailed over your evil that day," she said. "Your decision to run over my husband was stupid.” And she called Flores stupid probably ten more times, using various examples, ending with: “Stupid is as stupid does, Roberto.” Mrs. Hunter asked the judge for the maximum sentence, looking at Flores again when she said, “I want you in prison for as long as possible.”
Brad Hunter, 49, spoke for about 15 minutes. The courtroom was filled with more than 40 supporters; every seat was taken, and the overflow of people stood close together against the back and side walls of the room. Some were in law-enforcement uniform and others were in street clothes. Officer Hunter reassured his friends that he is “doing well. My physical injuries are healing nicely.” He thanked a friend who spent a lot of time in the hospital room with his wife, waiting for the officer to awaken from his coma.
Officer Hunter said that people have asked him why Flores was at liberty after he was arrested for being a felon in possession of assault rifle, which gave Flores opportunity to use his car as a weapon against a peace officer, and the cop said he does not know how to respond to that. “By the grace of God and good helmet I survived Mr. Flores’s attack….
“I have no doubt Flores will brag about this to become some kind of big deal in prison,” Officer Hunter said. He echoed his boss, Chief McCoy, when he told the judge, “Mr. Flores’s attack on me was an attack on every police officer.” He expressed fear that if Flores ever had another opportunity he would make another attempt on another officer and would perhaps be more successful the next time.
In brief remarks, prosecutor Keith Watanabe agreed, “It is unfortunate he was even out on bail to commit this crime.”
Judge Bowman also heard evidence about the prior offense Flores had been arrested for, possession of an assault rifle. Judge Bowman noted that investigators found “military grade” items, such as a kevlar helmet and body armor, which caused the judge to wonder what Flores intended with those items. “It would seem you had a much greater plan of some sort,” Bowman said. “If your actions towards officer Hunter are any indication, it couldn’t have been good.”
Disputing remarks by the prosecutor, defense attorney John Wilschke denied that Flores is a gang member, saying, “He just had friends in high school who were associates.” Court paperwork stated Flores graduated from Twin Oaks High School in San Marcos. Wilschke said that Flores’s prior convictions, for a petty theft in 2010 and meth sales in 2013, were “not an extensive criminal history.”
The judge asked Flores, “Do you have anything you want to say?” Flores never said a word.
As three sheriff’s deputies led the defendant from the room in handcuffs and chains, the last thing the judge said was, “Good luck, Mr. Flores.”