LOS ANGELES — California’s governor has overturned a parole board’s recommendation to release a man convicted of masterminding a 1984 armed robbery that led to a shootout with police and killed a Los Angeles officer, according to a copy of the governor’s decision obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Hau Chan, 61, is currently serving a life sentence for murder after being convicted of orchestrating the Dec. 19, 1984 robbery at a jewelry store in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood.
Los Angeles Police Officer Duane Johnson was shot and killed during an ensuing gunbattle. A second officer, Archie Nagao who was shot in the neck but survived.
Chan had argued at his trial that he was outside the store, acting as a getaway driver when the gunfire erupted.
Earlier this year, a parole board found Chan was suitable for release after 32 years behind bars because he had showed remorse, accepted responsibility and had participated in several prison programs.
But California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a decision Friday reversing the parole board’s recommendation and ordered Chan to remain in state prison. The AP obtained a copy of Brown’s decision on Wednesday that outlined his rationale for overturning Chan’s parole.
The Democratic governor said Chan made efforts to improve himself in prison but said he was troubled that Chan “continues to downplay the extent to which he led the planning of this armed robbery and has not confronted his actions.”
Chan, the governor said, previously acknowledged helping to plan the crime. Chan told a prison psychiatrist that he had committed the robbery — and others before that — because he wanted money and “worshipped people with nice clothes.”
In his reversal, the governor said Chan is dangerous and “currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison.”
Authorities have said Chan planned the robbery, “cased” the store, arranged for the getaway cars and advised three other suspects how long he thought it would take for police to respond.
Two men had walked into the Jin Hing Jewelry store, wearing suits, and told the owner and his son that they wanted to buy coins, authorities said. After they were led to a safe in the shop, the two men pulled out guns and then opened the front door for a third armed suspect before the owner triggered a silent alarm.
When the two Los Angeles police officers arrived, one of the suspects posed as an employee and opened the front door for the officers before he shot one of them in the neck. The officers returned fire and two of the suspects were killed.
Craig Lally, the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, said the robbery was a “cold-blooded execution of an on-duty police officer.
Chan “should not receive the benefit of an early release, and be able to go home to his family, when Officer Johnson wasn’t even able to see the birth of his own daughter,” Lally said in a letter to the parole board opposing his release.
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