Veteran in violent SoCal chase has deteriorating mental condition, family says

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- The 34-year-old veteran who led police on a perilous three-hour chase on Thursday had once been a mild-mannered public school teacher, according to an Inglewood neighbor.

"He used to love his kids, he used to love his daughter... Very quiet guy, but all of a sudden he started having mental problems," said neighbor Fuad Abdulmalik.

Karl Flores' recklessness was on display during Thursday's chase. At one point, he struck a pedestrian on a scooter and kept going. The victim survived without life-threatening injuries, according to investigators, even though Flores ran over him.

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A chase suspect slammed into a person on a scooter during a police pursuit in Los Angeles on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. WARNING: Video may be disturbing for some. (NO AUDIO)

Flores, an Army veteran, had been an occasional worshipper at the Islamic Center of Inglewood. Mosque leaders say that two years ago, Flores' behavior changed. Members called police after Flores attacked a mosque employee who found Flores smoking marijuana in a prayer room.

"I was informed from his family member that he has PTSD and they were asking our help, and we said we're here to help, that's not a problem...," said Javed Bava, president of the Islamic Society of Inglewood.

According to military records, Flores had enlisted in the Army when he was 18 and left in 2008. His family tells Eyewitness News he did three tours in Afghanistan and that the VA had been unable to help him.

RELATED: Chase suspect in custody after running over scooter rider in hourslong pursuit spanning LA, San Diego counties
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A chase suspect was taken into custody after hitting a scooter rider during a chase that stretched from L.A. to San Diego County Thursday.

According to neighbors, Flores' troubles escalated in recent months. Police responded to reports of domestic abuse at his apartment. His wife fled for her safety. He was facing eviction, and on New Year's Day, he was screaming and threatening his neighbor.

"He came after me holding a long metal stick and saying 'go, go go.' I run away. I went to the mosque, I called 911," Abdulmalik said.

The chase ended on the 5 Freeway near Camp Pendleton after Flores' car ran out of gas. A standoff continued until officers shot Flores with a bean bag gun.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Flores initially refused treatment but later agreed to medical help. He is now recovering from surgery at a San Diego medical facility as he faces multiple felonies.

Leaders at the Islamic Center say that they are pursuing a restraining order in case Flores is released. They say that worshippers stopped going to prayers for fear of running into Flores.

Now, they are spreading the word that it is safe to return.
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