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Ernesto Flores, 52
Montclair, California
April 15, 2015

Agencies: San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department California

Last updated: about 1 year ago

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A 52-year-old man who allegedly threatened to blow up a home and was involved in a barricade situation with San Bernardino sheriff's deputies Wednesday has died.

Deputies responded to a call at about 11:35 a.m. about a man who was threatening to blow up a home in the 11100 block of Chico Avenue in Montclair.

At one point, Ernesto Flores, 52, started a fire in the home and a deputy-involved shooting occurred, officials said. No details were released about the shooting.

Flores was taken to a hospital, where he died.

The tragic death last week of Ernesto Flores has raised again the danger of sending uniformed patrol officers on domestic disturbance calls. Too often, as in the case of Flores, the family members who placed the 911 call are forced to ask why the cops killed their loved one when what the caller wanted was a peaceful resolution of the incident. “Why did they have to shoot him?” is to often the response of the grieving relatives who asked for help.

On April 15, the death was in an unincorporated part of Montclair. But we have seen similar results in many Southern California cities. Often a well-meaning friend or relative reports that someone is suicidal. Too often death follows … at the hands of police. Distraught relatives wonder why the cops had to kill their dad or brother when all they wanted was for the police to restrain them.

Now, in light of the alarming number of people killed by questionable police and sheriff’s action throughout Southern California, an alternative conflict resolution agency is needed, one that doesn’t approach a domestic disturbance in the cavalier manner demonstrated by law enforcement in recent years.

The old standby — “The officer, in fear for his life, opened fire” — doesn’t cut it anymore.

On the one hand, police apologists constantly laud the heroism of the force. After all, we are told, at the World Trade Center while many civilians lost their lives, police and firefighters gave their lives by entering the buildings without thought for their personal safety. Yet about that time a handful of Riverside officers standing outside a parked car with a sleeping woman inside were so fearful that they killed the startled victim when she awakened and allegedly reached for a gun to protect herself.

This scenario is repeated at frequently in the Southland. All that’s necessary to document it is to read the daily papers and keep score. The usual routine is exoneration of all involved. If fired, the courts can often be counted on to rule for the police and order rehiring and back pay.

Since the police mentality begins with a reliance on weapons and the use of deadly force (and not just guns), let’s turn the handling of domestic disturbances over to an entirely different agency staffed by a professionally trained contingent of persons skilled in conflict resolution. Sending a uniformed, armed cop to the home of a raging, ranting spouse only invites trouble.

Each law enforcement agency needs an independent conflict resolution force, with enough money and personnel to properly handle domestic cases that call for immediate action. Staff the agency with a rainbow of personnel equipped with the sensitivity to deal with crisis situations and knowledgeable about the various racial, ethnic and otherwise identifiable elements of the community. A proficiency in languages other than English is a must. Flores spoke only Spanish.

Critics of this idea will scoff. But Southern Californians have reached the point where they know that if they call the police in a domestic disturbance there is a good chance a loved one — still a loved one even if in the midst of a drunken rage — will be killed or injured, or that the responding officer will suffer that fate.

Back in the 1960s those who criticized the police were mocked with the epithet, “Don’t call a cop, call a hippie.” Until this new agency is created, you may actually be better off during a domestic disturbance if you call that hippie.