LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) – The mayor of Lancaster claimed Thursday that a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sergeant who served his area until being shot to death on duty last week would be alive if not for Gov. Jerry Brown’s “realignment” plan to reduce the state prison population. The governor’s spokesman said the mayor’s “wild claims” are baseless.
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris was interviewed by Los Angeles radio station KNX-AM before a memorial service for his friend, Sgt. Steven Owen, who was shot while answering a burglary call on Oct. 5. Trenton Trevon Lovell, on parole for an armed robbery conviction, has been charged with murder.
Brown attended the memorial and Parris said it was telling that the governor was not among the speakers.
“You know, he’s attending and as well he should attend, he should honor Steve Owen,” Parris said. “But nobody wants to hear him speak because the truth of the matter is Steve Owen would be alive today but for the governor’s involvement in getting early releases.”
Brown’s spokesman, Evan Westrup, said the governor does not usually give remarks at funerals for fallen officers, but appears to pay respect on behalf of all Californians.
“This is a time for mourning, not a time to advance a political agenda,” Westrup said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press. “Mr. Parris’s wild claims have no basis in fact.”
Brown signed the realignment bill in 2011 in response to federal judges’ orders to thin overcrowded state prisons. It was aimed at reducing the number of lower-level offenders and parole violators who cycled through state prisons by instead having county officials handle their punishment.
Westrup noted Lovell’s armed robbery conviction in 2009 came before Brown signed the bill, which stipulated no inmates currently in state prison would be released early, and all felons convicted of serious or violent offenses would continue going to state prison.
Lovell has been on parole since 2014, when he was freed from prison after serving roughly five years of a six-year sentence for robbing a university community safety officer at gunpoint.
Prior to realignment, Lovell could have gone back to prison as a parole violator after pleading no contest to driving under the influence earlier this year. Instead he served 13 days in jail and was placed on three years’ probation.
He has not entered a plea for Owen’s shooting. He is being held without bail.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.