Downey, CA – A California man involved in the ambush-style murder of a Downey police officer in 2015 could be released from prison in just three more years due to a law change.
Downey Police Officer Ricardo Galvez, 29, was attacked as he was sitting in the station parking lot in his vehicle on Nov. 18, 2015, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Just before he checked off shift, Officer Galvez was ambushed by three suspects, one of whom fired a gun into his vehicle, hitting him in the face.
Officer Galvez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran with five years on the force, died of his wounds.
The suspects, Abel Diaz and his half-brothers, Jeremy Alvarez and Steven Knott, escaped from the scene and were arrested the following day.
Investigators later determined that the shooting occurred during a botched robbery attempt, the Press-Telegram reported.
Diaz, who was 16 at the time of the officer’s murder, later confessed that he and Knott covered their faces with cloth, then approached Officer Galvez’s vehicle from opposite sides while Alvarez remained inside the getaway car, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Richard Biddle testified.
Both suspects were armed, but it was Knott who fired into the vehicle, investigators said.
Diaz claimed that Knott’s gun fired by accident.
Knott and Alvarez are still awaiting trial for their roles in Officer Galvez’s, murder, and prosecutors have not yet announced whether or not they will seek the death penalty, KCBS reported.
Diaz subsequently pleaded guilty to murder, attempted robbery, and robbery in December of 2018.
He was initially charged as an adult, but his case was transferred back to the juvenile court system after California voters approved the passing of the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016.
Under the policy change, prosecutors no longer have the power to charge juveniles as adults at their own discretion, and the court is left to determine whether or not a transfer is warranted.
Then, in September of 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that took away prosecutors’ ability to charge accomplices with felony murder.
SB 1437 changed the law to say that a person can only be convicted of felony murder if they actually participated in killing someone, or if they were “a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life,” the Sacramento Bee reported.
Prior to the law change, California had a “felony murder rule,” which allowed someone to be held criminally liable for a murder that occurred while they were committing a felony, even if it was their accomplice who killed somebody.
As a result, Diaz could walk out of prison in just three years, KCBS reported.
“Mr. Diaz was not some innocent kid, caught up in the moment, and an accident occurred,” Downey Police Department Captain Mark McDaniel told the City Council last week. “He actively participated, with even his face partially covered to hide his identity, in the murder of Ricky. How in the world can Mr. Diaz be released out into our community in the next few years? It’s really unbelievable.”
Downey Police Officer Association (DPOA) President Corporal Ralph Diaz said that there has also been discussion about filing a lawsuit against the state in an effort to overturn the law.
“As long as I’m alive, I will never let Ricky’s memory die and I will never let this Senate bill go down,” Cpl. Diaz vowed.
“The hope is to have it changed,” he explained. “And if we can’t have it completely overturned, at least meet somewhere in the middle.”