Slain DeKalb police officer ‘a person of great promise’

Death of Edgar Flores looms large as new police recruits graduate

He was young, just 24 years old, recently engaged to be married. None of the last four officers killed by gunfire in Georgia were older than 30.

In each case, the incidents leading to their deaths had seemingly routine beginnings. Around 5 p.m. Thursday, DeKalb County Police Officer Edgar Flores pulled over 33-year-old Brandon Taylor on Candler Road near I-20, an economically disadvantaged area devastated by drug trafficking and gang violence.

Taylor fled on foot. Flores pursued him but was stopped in his tracks when Taylor produced a handgun, shooting the rookie cop multiple times, according to the GBI. Flores died soon after transport to Grady Memorial Hospital.

“We lost a person of great promise yesterday because of a senseless crime and act of violence,” DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said.

DeKalb County Police command staff stand near the portrait of slain Officer Edgar Flores, 24 as they wait to congratulate graduates at the DeKalb County 114th Police Academy graduation ceremony on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018 at the Manuel J. Maloof Auditorium in Decatur. Flores, a rookie who had been with the department a little over a year, was killed the line of duty on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. He had great promise, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said. 

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Taylor didn’t get far, hiding amid a pile of tires behind a business about a block away from the initial traffic stop. He was sniffed out by a police K-9 named Indi. Taylor fired another shot, striking the dog but alerting three DeKalb SWAT officers to his whereabouts. They returned fire. Taylor was pronounced dead upon arrival at Grady.

Flores, who worked his way up from humble beginnings in the tiny northeast Georgia town of Baldwin, is the 50th police officer in the United States killed by gunfire in 2018, five more than in all of 2017 and the second-most since 2014. Three, including Flores, worked in Georgia.

Officer Flores’ father, Isidro Flores, said he never imagined his son would get hurt in the line of duty.

“He was such a good young man, responsible, dutiful,’’ Isidro Flores said of his son, who would have turned 25 on Tuesday.

“He was such a blessing,” the father said. “He always loved school, always level-headed.”

Family meant everything to Officer Flores, his father said. He was close to his brother despite their nine-year age gap, driving him to school and soccer practice. He was an avid outdoorsman and a dedicated student who loved going to school, Isidro Flores said.

DeKalb County Police Chief J. W. Conroy makes remarks before the portrait of Officer Edgar Flores at the 114th Police Academy graduation ceremony on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, at the Manuel J. Maloof Auditorium in Decatur. Officer Flores was fatally shot the previous day — Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018 — while pursing a man who ran from a traffic stop. He was engaged to be married and was just days away from celebrating his 25th birthday. 

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Kiara Mealor, 24, knew Edgar Flores since childhood. They grew up attending the same schools in Habersham County.

“He was so outgoing, just a good person that everyone liked,” Mealor said. “It sucks that someone so good is taken away so young.”

Mealor said Flores took “all of the honors classes” in high school. “He sure helped me out a lot,” she said.

He would go on to attend the University of North Georgia, where he graduated magna cum laude in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

From there, it was on to DeKalb police academy, where Flores trained for seven months before joining the force.

New officers take their oath at the DeKalb County 114th Police Academy graduation ceremony on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018 at the Manuel J. Maloof Auditorium in Decatur. The new graduates became officers just one day after DeKalb County Police Officer Edgar Flores, age 24, was fatally gunned down in the line of duty. 

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"A lot of police academies typically have 10 (or more) recruits. However, we had just four, including Flores," said DeKalb Officer Habib Dim Ashogbon, writing about his friend on a GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral expenses. "All four of us developed a genuine bond for each other. We were known as the fantastic four. He may not be here with us today, but he will always be part of the fantastic four."

Ashogbon said Flores’ ambition was to work in forensic science. He became a cop because he “wanted experience on the road helping people,” Ashogbon wrote.

RELATED: Long recovery ahead for Henry officer shot in the face 

Flores’ death comes one week after Henry County Police Officer Michael Smith, 33, was shot in the face while tussling with an irate man at a McDonough dental office. The same bullet also struck and killed the suspect, 53-year-old Dimaggio McNelly. Smith was transferred Friday to Shepherd Center’s intensive care unit for brain injury rehabilitation, according to clinic spokeswoman Jane Sanders.

RELATED: Mourners recall slain Gwinnett officer as selfless, engaging

In October, Gwinnett County Police Officer Antwan Toney, 30, was shot and killed after responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle. Locust Grove Police Officer Chase Maddox, 26, was fatally shot in the head in February, days before his second child was due to be born. He had been deployed as backup to Henry deputies attempting to serve an arrest warrant for a missed court date.

RELATED: Locust Grove officer remembered for dedication to family, work

Meanwhile, K-9 cop Indi is recovering following surgery. The 7-year-old police dog lost an eye but was listed in stable condition Friday, said DeKalb Police Chief James Conroy.

RELATED: A hero again: DeKalb K-9 Indi helps nab suspected cop killer

Funeral arrangements are pending for Edgar Flores.

“I have to keep it together in order to take care of the preparations and all the things that we must do,” Isidro Flores said.

DeKalb County Police Chief J.W. Conroy walks past the 114th Police Academy graduation class before their ceremony on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, at the Manuel J. Maloof Auditorium in Decatur. The new graduates became officers just one day after a DeKalb County cop — Officer Edgar Flores, age 24 — was killed in the line of duty. 

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The fallen officer’s name was invoked several times during Friday’s graduation ceremony for the latest crop of DeKalb police recruits.

“He was just a phenomenal individual,” Thurmond, the county CEO, said.

— AJC staff writers Alexis Stevens and John Spink contributed to this article.