A gunman killed El Monte police officers seconds after entering the room

The recruit and his training officer knocked on the door of a motel room in El Monte, where they had been called to investigate a report of domestic violence.

Once they took the victim out of the room, Officer Joseph Santana entered, followed by his training officer, Cpl. Michele Paredes. Justin Flores, the man inside, reentered the bathroom, law enforcement sources told the Times.

Within about 12 seconds, a source said, Flores ambushed the officers with gunshots. Paredes fell first. Coroner officers said both officers died of a gunshot wound to the head.

The murders brought pain and heartache to the eastern suburb of downtown Los Angeles, where both agents grew up and chose to remain as first responders. “They are local to El Monte,” Mayor Jessica Ancona said this week. “They are our boys”.

El Monte police officers react to an emotional Friday speech by Olga Garcia, mother of 31-year-old Joseph Santana, one of two officers killed in a shooting this week.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

The horrifying details about the moments leading up to the killings and the savage shooting that followed surfaced on Friday as the officers’ friends and family gathered in mourning. The sources who described the scene asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

The incident began at around 4:30 pm on Tuesday, when Paredes and Santana, along with an unidentified sergeant, responded to the Siesta Inn, a one-story stucco motel in El Monte.

After Paredes and Santana fell, law enforcement sources said, Flores ran out of bullets and took a gun from one of the fallen officers. He left the room shooting the sergeant.

Flores ran into a parking lot, where other responding agents involved him in a shooting. Flores – who was 6 foot 2 and about 300 pounds – fell to the ground but kept firing at the officers. He then shot himself as officers moved, the sources said.

Flores died on the scene. Coroner’s officers did not determine which shots killed him.

Paredes and Santana were taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead.

A press conference on Friday afternoon outside the El Monte Police Department began with a moment of silence for the fallen officers.

Ron Danison, president of the El Monte police union, called the two officers as his brothers. “Postal Code. Paredes and Agent Santana didn’t show up for work today. I expected to see them walk in through the gates of the station with their smiles, “Danison said.” It didn’t happen today, but I’m standing here trying to make sense of the unthinkable.

Two high school students with duct tape went up to the memorial at the El Monte Police Department.

Sisters Anisa Robles, 17, left, and Frankie Robles, 16 students from Mountain View High School, attached tissue paper roses under memorial wreaths at a press conference outside the El Monte Police Department.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

Paredes started as a cadet with the department and was sworn in as a full-time officer in July 2000. He leaves his wife, daughter and son. Ancona, the mayor, said that he “attended our schools in El Monte” and was “thrilled to be in force”.

Santana, a graduate of El Monte High, served three years as Deputy Sheriff of San Bernardino County before moving to the El Monte Police Department less than a year ago. Before joining law enforcement, you were a city maintenance worker in El Monte for six years. He outlived his wife, daughter and twins.

Her mother, Olga Garcia, remembered her son as a “great father, a great husband, a good American citizen and a wonderful son”.

An El Monte resident hangs a rosary on one of the many flower wreaths at a growing memorial for two El Monte police officers.

An El Monte resident hangs a rosary on one of the many flower wreaths at a growing memorial for two El Monte police officers.

(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

“As a mother, my life was destroyed. Joseph was murdered by a criminal who should have been in prison, ”she said. She went on to criticize Dist. Avv. George Gascón for the policies he said to prioritize criminals over cops.

The Times this week reported that Flores could have faced much more time in prison when he was last charged with a crime. Documents reviewed by the Times showed that one of Gascón’s most heavily criticized policies likely led to a lower sentence.

In 2020, Flores was accused of being a criminal in possession of a firearm and methamphetamine.

He was convicted of burglary in 2011. Burglaries are “strike” crimes, making suspects accused of subsequent crimes eligible for harsher sentences. Flores’ previous conviction means that he had an attack on him when he was charged in 2020.

But the prosecutor in charge of the case, the vicedist. Lawyer Larry Holcomb, wrote in a report on the provision that he had to lift the strike charge after Gascón took office and prevented prosecutors from filing strikes. Gascón’s policy was later found illegal by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.

Flores pleaded guilty to being a criminal in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to two years of probation and 20 days in prison; he could have faced up to three years in prison on gun charges. At the time of this week’s shooting, he was still on probation.

The day before the shooting, Flores’ probation officer filed a request in court for a revocation hearing, listing the reason as “abandonment.” Two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said her girlfriend reported assaulting her last week, resulting in a probation violation, but Flores was not taken into custody. The hearing was set for June 27th.

Asked why Flores was not arrested for the violation, Karla Tovar, a spokesperson for the county probation department, said the agency “is currently investigating the matter further.”

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.