Thousands gathered at an Ontario service Thursday morning honoring the El Monte police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty.
Corporal Michael Paredes, 42, and Officer Joseph Santana, 31, were ambushed by gunfire from inside a motel room as soon as they responded to a reported stabbing at the Siesta Inn in El Monte around 5:10 p.m. June 14.
At one point, the shooter came outside and exchanged gunfire with police.
When the shooting was over, the officers were taken to a local hospital where they were pronounced dead. Both fallen officers were raised in El Monte, were married and had children.
The gunman, Justin William Flores, also died during the gun battle. Medical examiner’s records show he died of a gunshot wound to the head, and the death was ruled a suicide.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has faced mounting criticism from some in the law enforcement community, as well as the officers’ loved ones because Flores was out on probation for a gun charge when the deadly fatal occurred.
Santana’s mother even blamed her son’s death on the top prosecutor, calling his criminal justice reform policies “insane.”
Before the ceremony Thursday, hundreds of cars participated in a procession from the El Monte Police Department to the Toyota Arena in Ontario.
“My hope is that the kids will come to understand the caliber of professionals their dads were,” Interim El Monte Police Chief Ben Lowry said.
Santana began his career in El Monte working part time in public works, police said. He transitioned into law enforcement after six years and worked as a deputy with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, where he served for about three years.
In 2021, he became an El Monte police officer, “returning to his hometown to serve the community he grew up in,” police said.
He is survived by his wife, daughter and twin boys.
During the service, Santana was described as well-liked, dependable, compassionate and empathetic.
“Joseph’s compassion for others is what made him a great police officer,” his sister said. “He loved his profession. He was so proud to wear his uniform and badge, and serve the community he grew up in.”
Paredes was a cadet with the El Monte Police Department before he became an officer in 2000. He worked several specialized assignments before being appointed a corporal. He was promoted to sergeant posthumously. He is survived by his wife, daughter and son.
Paredes was described as professional, level headed and thorough.
The memorial culminated with final honors, including the El Monte police honor guard presenting flags, the 21-gun salute form the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and a flyover from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
The El Monte Police Department and the El Monte Police Officers Association have set up a donation page for the familes of the fallen officers.