Stefen Sutherland, 31, had previously faced charges of assault with a deadly weapon after attacking a construction worker in 2020. Despite concerns expressed by a probation official, District Attorney George Gascon’s office pursued mental health diversion instead of jail time, which has drawn criticism for being an undercharged offense.
On May 23, Sutherland allegedly shot his neighbor, Jennifer Gomez, following previous conflicts over noise complaints. Gascon’s office defended their decision, stating that the defendant met the eligibility criteria for mental health diversion and had successfully participated in a treatment program.
Critics argue that the leniency shown in the initial case, with a charge of assault instead of attempted murder, was part of a larger issue within the criminal justice system. The case highlights the failures of state and local officials in addressing the needs of mentally ill individuals who pose a danger to the community.
The incident follows another case where a diversion recipient, Jade Simone Brookfield, was charged with murder after receiving mental health diversion for prior assault charges. The lack of appropriate facilities and the challenges faced by prosecutors in such cases contribute to an ongoing problem where lives are lost.
Sutherland is currently in custody with a bail set at $2 million and is scheduled to appear in court on June 12. The tragic events have sparked discussions about the need for comprehensive solutions to address mental health issues and ensure public safety.