Middle-aged cops were alleged targets of rage

Did Roberto Flores intend to steer his car into officer Brad Hunter?

Roberto Flores bragged about striking the police officer to impress his cellmates, said his lawyer.
  • Roberto Flores bragged about striking the police officer to impress his cellmates, said his lawyer.

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.

Officer Brad Hunter survived.

Officer Brad Hunter survived.

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.

Judge Blaine Bowman

Judge Blaine Bowman

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.)

Prosecutor Keith Watanabe has computer animation for the jury.

Prosecutor Keith Watanabe has computer animation for the jury.

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.

Roberto Flores on the day he was arrested for striking Officer Hunter

Roberto Flores on the day he was arrested for striking Officer Hunter

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.

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My initial reaction to this case was to compare it to the Julie Harper murder case. Keith Watanabe was the prosecutor, and "Blainey" Bowman the judge. The first time around the judge ruled repeatedly against the DA's requests to include evidence, including some things that put the role of the defense attorney, former DA Paul Pfingst, in a bad light. Eventually, in the second trial, Julie was convicted of murder, and got a sentence of forty years.

So, as this case starts, the judge suppresses the woeful criminal record of the defendant, while saying that the case all hinges on "intent." That record would help determine that element, but the jury will never see or hear it. We might ask if this judge is interested at all in justice, or it he has some other agenda. Looking closer, it may be that he just refuses to do anything that might be reversed on appeal. By now, Watanabe should be used to the ways of the judge, and can adjust to them. Let's hope he can make the case to the jury.

On the other hand, when it comes to sentencing, Bowman is tough. He's sent gang bangers up for life sentences. So, when/if Watanabe gets his jury conviction, Bowman might again get tough. But it is troubling to read of his rulings that keep needed information away from the juries.

Visduh, The judge has disallowed specific information about the defendant's past gang "membership." But the statements Roberto Flores made to cell mates showing his loyalty to "the team" are already being revealed to jurors by the prosecutor. Defense said Flores' statements were false bravado. The jury will draw their own conclusions. More testimony coming today. Eva

Eva, I'm expecting a conviction, and what you've already reported indicates the trial will be brief. But you never know what a jury might do.

All dirt bag gang bangers should get LWOP for any crime the commit and in this case he should get the death sentence, which means LWOP.

The jury declared Roberto Flores guilty on all counts, the morning of October 31, 2017. They also declared true the allegations that the attempted murder on peace officer was willful and premeditated. Because Flores had a "prison prior" and was out on felony bail at the time of the new offense, this will cause "enhancements" at his sentencing, now set for November 30 before the same judge who heard trial. Prosecutor Keith Watanabe said he expects Officer Brad Hunter and his wife will give victim impact statements to the court, before sentence is declared. Also today, another trial is starting for the same defendant, Roberto Flores. In this case, he is accused of Felon in Possession of Assault Rifle. Jury is being selected now.

He cursed the jury, huh? I'll bet that even Bowman didn't like that. He's in a world of hurt; his sentence could and should be life. Then he will be turned over to the tender mercies of the prison guards who take an intense dislike to cop killers or wannabe cop killers.

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