On the morning of Jan. 31, Officer Gonzalo Carrasco of the Selma Police Department was flagged down by a homeowner reporting a trespasser on her property. Carrasco stopped and approached the suspect, who fired several shots, striking Carrasco and allegedly killing him.
Responding to the tragedy, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp assigned responsibility for the murder on Assembly Bill 109 and a list of other legal and extraordinary measures the Newsom administration has used to empty its prisons, saying:
“Governor Gavin Newsom, and every legislator in the state of California who supports this over-reaching phenomenon they try to disguise as legitimate criminal justice reform, has the blood of this officer on their hands.”
Newsom, in response to Smittcamp’s criticism, said at a press conference that he was “sick and tired of being lectured by her on public safety.”
However, the data and the facts make clear that Newsom and like-minded officials never listened to the lecture in the first place.
Smittcamp blames a list of sweeping policy measures enacted beginning in 2011 with Assembly Bill 109, known as Prison Realignment, as well as the state’s ongoing prison releases under Proposition 57 and emergency actions authorized by Newsom during the COVID-19 pandemic to further reduce the prison population.
As I explore in a new Pacific Research Institute study, the Newsom administration has utilized these and other powers to release thousands of felons.
This includes not just the so-called “triple nons” — the non-violent, non-serious, and non-sex offenders shifted from state custody to local communities under AB 109.
Now, all prisoners except those serving life without parole and those under sentence of death qualify for sentencing reductions. This includes violent offenders — despite what AB 109 backers promised. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimates 108,000 prisoners were eligible for accelerated release.
Newsom said in 2020 that he acted to reduce the inmate population further during the pandemic “to recognize the immense burden incarcerated people have shouldered through these unprecedented times.”
California’s murder victims numbered 2,361 in 2021, which is up from 1,794 when AB 109 was passed in 2011, or an increase of 31.6 percent.
The suspect Nathaniel Michael Dixon, according to GV Wire, has been arrested for trespassing, narcotics charges, a felon in possession of a dirk or dagger, second-degree robbery and auto theft since 2019. In July 2020, he received a sentence of three years’ probation.
In August 2020, he was rearrested on two separate occasions for additional gun and drug charges. In March 2022, he pleaded no contest to possession of a controlled substance while armed with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a felon, for which he was sentenced to five years and four months in state prison.
On Sept. 22, 2022, just six months into his sentence, he was released under Governor Newsom’s rules to a term of three years of “community supervision.” Barely a month later, he was rearrested for failure to meet with his probation officer. Three weeks later, he was again set free on probation.
It would take him just 10 weeks to obtain another firearm, and allegedly shoot and kill Officer Carrasco.
Officer Carrasco marks the 100th law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty since 2011, and will unfortunately soon join those remembered at the California Peace Officer’s Memorial in Sacramento.
If Newsom is serious about ensuring Carrasco’s valor is not soon forgotten, he should start by reforming or repealing those reckless policies from Sacramento that tragically made victims out of Officer Carrasco and countless others.
Steve Smith, a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and former Gavilan College administration of justice instructor, is a senior fellow in urban studies at the Pacific Research Institute. Download the new study “Paradise Lost: Crime in California 2011-2021” at pacificresearch.org.