El Monte, CA – El Monte Police Department (EMPD) Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were murdered in the line of duty on Tuesday while responding to a report of a possible stabbing at a motel.
The fatal encounter occurred at the Siesta Inn near Central Avenue and Garvey Avenue at approximately 4:30 p.m. on June 14, according to KABC.
Cpl. Paredes, 42, and Officer Santana, 31, responded to the motel after receiving a report of a possible stabbing and located a male suspect inside one of the rooms, KNBC reported.
He was later identified as 35-year-old convicted felon Justin William Flores.
Law enforcement sources said they believe at least one of the two officers was familiar enough with Flores to have recognized him on sight and by name, according to KNBC.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) Captain Andrew Meyer said that when the officers confronted Flores, “an officer-involved shooting occurred,” CNN reported.
“They were essentially ambushed while trying to keep a family safe,” added El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona.
Flores allegedly fired at Cpl. Paredes and Officer Santana inside the motel room, then fled out into the parking lot, where he again exchanged gunfire with the officers, KABC reported.
The suspect was fatally wounded during the shootout and was pronounce dead at the scene.
Investigators said they recovered a gun lying near the suspect’s body, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Cpl. Paredes and Officer Santana were both rushed to Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, where they succumbed to their wounds.
Cpl. Paredes, a married father of two, served the El Monte Police Department (EMPD) for 22 years, the agency said in a press release on Wednesday.
Officer Santana previously spent three years working for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, and had joined the EMPD less than one year ago.
He leaves behind his wife, daughter, and twin sons.
“Corporal Paredes and Officer Santana paid the ultimate sacrifice, while in performance of a noble profession, serving the community they loved,” the EMPD said.
Flores’ wife, Diana Flores, said she was with her husband when the 911 call about the potential stabbing was placed, CBS News reported.
She was not injured during the incident.
Diana Flores said she is “deeply sorry” for the loss of the officers, CBS News reported.
“My condolences for saving me,” she said. “I’m so sorry. They didn’t deserve that. They were trying to help me.”
Investigators said the alleged gunman was “well known” by local police and that he had dozens of convictions on his criminal history, according to KNBC.
Flores was convicted of burglary in 2011 and was sentenced to two years in prison, KNBC reported.
He was also sentenced to prison for car theft, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Flores was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm in March of 2020 and was sentenced to 20 days in jail and two years of probation in February of 2021.
In exchange for his guilty plea in the 2020 case, prosecutors dismissed charges of methamphetamine possession and being a felon in possession of ammunition, KNBC reported.
According to court records, Flores was charged with at least a dozen other crimes over the years, many of which resulted in probation sentences.
Police sources said Flores was also a member of the Whittier-based Quiet Village gang, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Just one day before the motel shooting, Flores’ probation officer filed a petition for revocation of his probation due to “desertion,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Investigators said the petition was partially triggered by a domestic violence incident that occurred one week before the fatal shooting, but Flores was not arrested for that alleged probation violation.
Los Angeles County Probation Department Spokesperson Karla Tovar said the department was “currently investigating” why he wasn’t arrested at that time, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Ancona said Cpl. Paredes and Officer Santana were “acting as a first line of defense for our community members” when they were murdered, KABC reported.
“Heartbroken doesn’t begin to express the loss we feel,” Ancona added, according to KNBC.
The mayor said Cpl. Paredes and Officer Santana “were like family” to the community and had “deep ties to our neighborhoods,” CNN reported.
“One of our officers was raised in El Monte, went through our schools and was excited to be a part of the El Monte Police Department, where he would be able to serve and protect family and friends,” she continued. “The other fallen officer was a new officer, patrolling our streets, excited to be on the force.”
“These men were dedicated to their careers, and even more so as sons, husbands and fathers,” Ancona said, according to CNN. “We stand in solidarity with them, embrace them and their families.”
El Monte Interim Police Chief Ben Lowry said the officers who were killed were loved by those who knew them, KABC reported.
“They were good men. They paid the ultimate sacrifice, serving their community trying to help somebody,” Chief Lowry said. “Today, they were murdered by a coward and we are grieving and that hurts.”
The El Monte Police Department, the City of El Monte, and the El Monte Police Officers Association released a joint statement about the deadly shooting on Tuesday night, KABC reported.
“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,” the statement read, according to KABC. “It weighs heavy on our hearts and we are sending our support to their families. We would also like to thank the El Monte community and our surrounding government agencies for the outpouring support we have received in the last few hours.”
The officers’ bodies were escorted from the hospital to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office by a procession of law enforcement vehicles at approximately 11 p.m. on Tuesday, KABC reported.
A fundraising page established to help the families of the two fallen heroes in the wake of their loss has raised over $42,000 so far.
— Baltimore County Police Department (@BaltCoPolice) June 16, 2022
The procession for fallen El Monte Police Cpl. Michael Paredes & Officer Joseph Santana. EOW 06.14.2022. ⚫️🔵⚫️ pic.twitter.com/2sL2ZyFSgj
— osv_321 (@osv_321) June 15, 2022
Devastating news out of Southern California tonight.
Two @elmontepolice officers were killed tonight while handling a domestic violence call. Their family and colleagues will all be in our thoughts tonight.
They gave their lives in service of others. We will not forget them. pic.twitter.com/VDYydS3Pvp
— San Francisco Police (@SFPD) June 15, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of El Monte Police Department Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana, your lives mattered.