A memorial is growing Wednesday for two El Monte police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty Tuesday night.
Flowers and candles are being placed outside the El Monte Police Department for the officers who were slain while responding to a reported stabbing in the 10300 block of Garvey Avenue.
“These two men were loved. They were good men. They paid the ultimate sacrifice serving their community, trying to help somebody … They were murdered by a coward,” acting El Monte Police Chief Ben Lowry said after the shooting Tuesday.
Investigators said the two officers, Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana, were ambushed by gunfire from inside a motel room as soon as they arrived at the Siesta Inn around 5:10 p.m.
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.
The gunman was also killed in the gun battle. His weapon was found at his side.
No stabbing victim was found at the location.
Both officers were raised in El Monte, were married and had children, police said.
Santana, 31, 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.
Paredes, 42, 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 is survived by his wife, daughter and son.
Late Tuesday, a procession from County USC Medical Center to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office was held as police officers and firefighters saluted.
“There are no words to describe our grief and devastation by this senseless act as we learned about the passing of two of our police officers. It weighs heavy on our hearts and we are sending our support to their families,” a statement from the City of El Monte and the El Monte Police department read.
The suspected shooter was identified as Justin William Flores by his mother Wednesday morning.
Flores’ mother said her son did have a prison record for domestic violence, but she didn’t know why he would have shot the officers.
Flores was on probation for a gun charge, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing court records.
According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Flores was convicted of burglarizing his grandparents’ home more than 10 years ago, resulting in a strike.
In 2020, he was arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and narcotics possession for personal use.
Then last year, Flores pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
“The sentence he received in the firearm case was consistent with case resolutions for this type of offense given his criminal history and the nature of the offense,” DA spokesman Ricardo Santiago told KTLA in an email. “At the time the court sentenced him, Mr. Flores did not have a documented history of violence.”
However, Eric Siddall, an L.A. County deputy district attorney, said Flores “should never have been out on probation” and that the strikes law was not being enforced.
“It’s solely because of George Gascón’s policy that he was out on the street on Tuesday,” Siddall said.
The El Monte Police Department and the El Monte Police Officers Association have established a donation page for the families of the fallen officers. The fundraiser is hosted by the Peace Officers Research Association of California and is the only official donation drive by the two groups, the Police Department said.