Home » Daughter of Army veteran killed in front yard calls for justice, change to policies: ‘This is a vicious cycle’

Daughter of Army veteran killed in front yard calls for justice, change to policies: ‘This is a vicious cycle’

by John Jefferson
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The daughter of a U.S. Army veteran who was killed in front of his California home while doing yard work called for changes to local criminal justice policies critics say have enabled criminals at the expense of victims. 

Mario Morales-Moreno, 51, was killed on April 4 at his Long Beach home when someone opened fire, hitting him and another victim, the Long Beach Police Department said. 

Morales-Moreno was struck in the upper body and died at the scene. Another man was hit in the leg but survived. On Thursday, Morales-Moreno’s daughter, Fernanda Sandoval, remembered her father as a man of service while calling for change. 

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“While we appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers, what we really need is policy and change,” she said as Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón stood beside her. “Under our current policies, there are dangerous people that are being released into the public and re-offending. This is a vicious cycle.”

“In this case, the police have done their jobs, and it’s time for the judicial system and the politicians to do theirs,” she added. 

4 suspects arrested

Investigators said the suspects fired multiple rounds but don’t believe Morales-Moreno was the intended target. On Thursday, authorities announced the arrests of four suspects — Jordan Omarion Stokes, 18; Taylor Byron Woods and Tyrell DeShawn Louden Jr., both 20; and 21-year-old Semaj Lamar O’Brien.

The DA’s office said “the murder was committed willfully, deliberately and with premeditation” and that “Stokes and Louden Jr., personally used a handgun.” During the arrests, authorities recovered multiple firearms and believe the shooting was gang-related. 

All four suspects are charged with murder for the death of Morales-Moreno and the attempted murder of four others in Long Beach. They’re each being held on separate $2 million bail. 

“Gang-related violence has no place in any part of our city, and this callous criminal act has forever changed the lives of Mr. Moreno’s family,” said Long Beach Chief of Police Wally Hebeish. 

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District Attorney George Gascon speaks to media wearing navy blue suit and dark tie

As the county’s top prosecutor, Gascón has enacted a series of criminal justice directives since taking office in 2020 that have drawn scorn from opponents and many in law enforcement, such as barring prosecutors from attending parole hearings, promoting zero-cash bail and efforts to end the prosecution of juveniles as adults, even for violent crimes. 

Residents living in fear

Sandoval said Los Angeles County residents are living in fear. 

“We no longer feel safe in our homes. These current policies are not allowing the current victims of crime to feel justice,” she said without mentioning specifics. 

Los Angeles County Prosecutor Jason Lustig, who has criticized Gascón, his boss, over his policies, said Sandoval was mostly likely alluding to Gascón in her remarks. 

“I think she was quite sophisticated and dignified because she knew exactly what she was saying,” she said. “She could have really put it in his face.”

Morales-Moreno worked for the suburb of La Mirada as a senior code enforcement specialist, the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers said. He rejoined the city after leaving in 2014.

 

In a statement, La Mirada City Manager Jeff Boynton praised Morales-Moreno as someone who came to work with a “positive attitude, worked well with residents and his colleagues at City Hall, and represented La Mirada admirably. He especially relished his leadership role with the City and enjoyed being a mentor to others in the City’s Public Safety Department. Mario will be deeply missed.” 

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