Oceanside police officer Brad Hunter was struck down as he stood next to a car he had pulled over for a traffic stop on Foussat Road on July 19, 2017. A jury was seated on Tuesday, October 24, for a trial in which Roberto Ignacio Flores is charged with attempted murder.
The case speeded to trial in only three months because defendant Flores has consistently declined to waive time in all his court hearings.
The jury of 9 men and 3 women heard opening arguments today, October 25.
Prosecutor Keith Watanabe claims to have witnesses who will testify that Flores accelerated his silver Dodge Neon and veered his car to purposely strike the officer. The defense is expected to claim the collision was an accident. It is not known if the defendant will choose to testify in his own defense.
Judge Blaine Bowman declared, “The key issue with this case is intent.”
In a pre-trial hearing, an accident-reconstruction specialist said that the officer’s radio was embedded in the shattered windshield of Flores’s car. And when the officer careened across the car, his boots left marks that illustrate his path. A white mark in the black asphalt street showed where the motorcycle officer’s helmeted head first hit the street, although his body traveled and came to rest some distance away, according to the expert. Sophisticated computer animation will be shown to the jury to illustrate the prosecutor’s version of events.
Officer Hunter survived the collision and is expected to be the first witness to testify. He is said to now move with the assistance of a cane.
Defense attorney John Wilshke unsuccessfully tried to suppress recorded statements that Roberto Flores made while he was in jail on two occasions for two different arrests.
Flores was in jail three months before the July incident, on a different felony charge, and at that time he made a recorded phone call in which he “demanded that his girlfriend find out the ‘names of all those middle-aged white men' that arrested him,” according to the prosecutor.
Flores was later at liberty on bail when he drove his car into the police officer. Flores was arrested the same day and put into a holding cell, where he reportedly told the other people in the cell, “If we are going to do 20, 30 years for drug sales and gang affiliation, why not fucking just buck ’em, too?” (“Buck ’em” is slang for “kill them,” according to prosecutor Watanabe.)
And, according to Watanabe, “Defendant said, ‘Just like a gang member, he’s there and then bang bang [mimicking gunfire] and that’s it. There’s more fucking of us than [police officers].”
When Flores bragged about striking a police officer, those were false statements made to impress his cellmates, whom he believed were criminals, according to his attorney.
The prosecutor asserts that Flores has a “deep seated anger towards middle-aged white officers like Brad Hunter” and he intentionally ran down Hunter, who fits that description.
Judge Blaine Bowman has ruled that Flores’s past felony convictions, and his gang affiliation, will not be revealed to the jury. The prosecutor alleges that Flores had 14 arrests in the past seven years.
The defense attorney asked the judge to order that Oceanside police officers should not be allowed to be seen seated in the courtroom, in uniform, if they come to observe during trial. Judge Bowman denied that request.
The judge disallowed the wife of the victim to testify, determining that her testimony would be too emotional.
Because Flores was out on bail for a previous felony charge at the time of this alleged offense, it creates a sentencing “enhancement,” so the total possible sentence Flores could face if found guilty of all charges is 29 years to life in prison.
The jury may get this case to deliberate as soon as Monday, the judge said.
Roberto Ignacio Flores, 26, pleads not guilty to attempted murder on a peace officer and assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury. He has been in custody since his arrest, in lieu of $5,050,000 bail. The case is heard in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista.