Flor Medrano, who was attacked with a foot-long knife by her estranged boyfriend,… (Katie Falkenberg / For the…)
Flor Medrano went to the police for help.
At dusk on a November evening in 2009, Medrano, a 30-year-old housekeeper with an easy smile and a love for Mexican Norteño music, came into the Los Angeles Police Department's Wilshire Division station. She had hardly slept for days. Her estranged, abusive boyfriend was stalking her and threatening to kill her. Medrano was terrified.
Tony Hyong Im, an officer with 12 years on the job, his rookie partner Hugo Fuentes, and a detective, Edward Ruffalo, were assigned to the case. The three spent hours with Medrano at the station, and later Im and Fuentes escorted her back to her mid-Wilshire neighborhood.
Medrano climbed the stairs to her apartment on the second floor and disappeared inside. The officers kept watch from their car across the street, figuring her boyfriend, Daniel Carlon, might show.
Carlon, however, was already in the apartment. Strung out on cocaine and methamphetamine, he attacked Medrano with a foot-long knife, stabbing her repeatedly in the legs and chest. Hearing Medrano's screams, the officers bolted up the stairs. A metal security door and metal bars on the window allowed them no way in.
Peering through a small break in a window shade, Im saw Medrano, her shirt soaked in blood. Carlon was coming at her from behind with the knife raised.
The officer couldn't get a shot at him without likely hitting Medrano. "Police! Drop the knife!" Im shouted. "Drop the knife!"
Carlon hesitated, apparently surprised by the officer's presence. Then, he lunged at Medrano.
A single gunshot cracked the air.
The events of that night would give rise to troubling questions. Had mistakes been made? Could the attack have been prevented?
Medrano and Carlon had met years before through her sister. They dated for a while, but Medrano broke off the relationship when she discovered that Carlon, 23, had lied about his age. The pair lost touch, but reconnected again in the spring of 2009.
It seemed like a good match. "She was so happy, always talking about how much she wanted to be with him," recalled Medrano's sister, Diana. Carlon doted on Medrano's toddler daughter from a previous relationship, Mariana, and the little girl adored him, adding to the sense that things were working out well, the sister said.
But in private, the relationship was abusive and volatile. Her close friend, Sherrie Martinez, and Medrano's sister recalled the day she appeared with a black eye and said she had fallen while working for a family in the Hollywood Hills. Later, Medrano admitted to police that Carlon had assaulted her several times.
On the Sunday before the attack, Medrano and Carlon had a nasty argument when she caught him scrolling through her cellphone to see who she had been calling. The next night, she went to a bar with Martinez to talk. "She was very upset," her friend recalled. "She said something like, 'I never wanted to see this side of him, but I see it now.' She was scared of how jealous he was."
While the women were out, Carlon went to Martinez's home looking for Medrano. He was on the lawn with a hammer in his hand when they returned. The women sneaked in through a back door and Carlon started screaming for Medrano to come outside. When she refused, he smashed the windshield of her car and drove off.
Medrano called the LAPD and officers came to take a report, but it does not appear that any serious effort was made to locate Carlon. Martinez said Medrano stayed up until nearly dawn, saying over and over, "I can't believe this is happening. I don't know what I am going to do."
Late the next night, Medrano was awakened by Carlon at her front door. Crying, he apologized and begged to be let in. Medrano's daughter awoke and Carlon reached through a window to embrace her. "What's wrong, Mommy?" the girl asked, growing upset. "Why won't you let him in?"
This article was based on information contained in records of the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County district attorney's office and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, as well as interviews. The records include the LAPD's official review, analysis and findings of the incident, and the Board of Police Commissioners' findings of the incident. Officers Im and Fuentes and Det. Ruffalo declined to comment for the article.
Medrano, who recounted the scene to Martinez, opened the door. Once inside, Carlon raped her. He stayed the night, telling her he had a gun.
As Medrano worked the next day, Carlon sent her dozens of messages, some professing his love and others vowing to kill her. After work, she returned to her neighborhood, where she walked up to a pair of officers on the street as they finished writing a ticket. The officers instructed Medrano to follow them in her car to the station.