Galvez murder defendant will only see three to five years despite plea deal, DPD says

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DOWNEY - More than three years after the tragic death of Downey police officer Ricardo “Ricky” Galvez, one of the defendants in the murder trial has entered a plea deal to evade criminal charges.

Abel Diaz was 16 years old when he participated in a botched robbery attempt that resulted in the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Downey police officer and Marine veteran Galvez in the DPD parking lot on Nov. 18, 2015.

Diaz, now 20 years old, and his attorneys made a deal with prosecutors before his court appearance on Friday, agreeing to admit to the murder and attempted robbery of Galvez, and the robbery of Edward Garcia, in exchange for the plaintiff’s withdrawal from a pursuit of the matter in criminal court.

With this deal, Diaz’s case is settled in the Juvenile Justice system.

Despite having already reached an agreement, Diaz still had to sit and face many of the fallen officer’s fellow officers, friends, and loved ones.

During an impact statement, Police Chief Dean Milligan said that Galvez “was always eager to help.”

“Ricky was stolen from us when he was insensibly murdered in the parking lot of the Downey Police Department,” said Milligan. “We will never be the same following his murder.”

An emotional Captain Mark McDaniel also gave a statement.

“My life has not been the same since. The Downey Police Department has not been the same since,” said McDaniel. “The last three years have been agonizing to say the least.”

“Ricky would have done more good in one traffic stop than the accused will ever think of doing in his life.”

As proceedings continued, Senate Bill 1437 – recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September – hung over the room like a thick, black cloud.

Under SB 1437, prosecutors’ ability to use the “felony murder rule” to charge accomplices with homicide is limited, stating that that a person can be convicted of murder only if he or she “was the actual killer” or “aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, solicited, requested, or assisted the actual killer” or “was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life.”

On the night of the Galvez murder, Diaz says that he was attempting to enter Galvez’s car from the passenger side door – which was locked – when he heard the gunshot.

Still, Galvez’s siblings blamed Diaz during their statements.

“There is consequence to sin, and they deserve to pay…,” said brother Pedro Galvez.

Galvez’s sister, Sandra, shared the same sentiments in her statement.

“Whether you pulled the trigger or not, you’re still guilty,” she said. “I hope your attorneys can sleep knowing they are defending a criminal, because for the last three years they have become our family’s worst nightmare.”

“Someone like you deserves to rot behind bars…no matter what, you will always be a murderer in my eyes.”

Diaz faces between 15 years to life in prison, but Downey police officials are skeptical he will serve anywhere near that amount of time.

That answer hinges on whether Diaz will serve his time in juvenile detention or state prison, which will be decided by a judge on Jan. 4.

That’s exactly why DPD officials are less than satisfied.

“The law requires that when someone turns 19 years of age that they be housed in men’s prison,” said Milligan. “The debate now is whether he will be retained in the juvenile detention system until the age of 25, or in the men’s prison system until the court determines that his sentence has been fulfilled.”

“In the juvenile system, you can’t be maintained in custody past the age of 25, so with him being 20 now the maximum time he would serve in the juvenile system would be five years, and often times rehabilitation is believed to occurred and released prior to that. There’s an expectation that he may only be in the juvenile justice system until the age of 22 or 23, we just don’t know for sure until they decide which way it’s going to go…”

McDaniel said that he was “disappointed in the system.”

“It’s heartbreaking because Ricky’s family has been re-victimized over and over again, and that’s what’s hurting me,” said McDaniel. “As a community, as a police department, as just doing the right thing, some of these laws that are being passed up in Sacramento…is jeopardizing the safety of our communities.

“For Ricky’s admitted murderer to be released from jail in the next few years is an outrage, because there’s no doubt that he should spend the rest of his life behind bars.”