Heartbroken community mourns 2 slain officers: 'They're our boys'

Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were fatally shot while investigating a possible stabbing


The Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) has established a fundraising campaign to help support the families of slain Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana. Donate here.

By Andrew J. Campa
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Lupe Morse, 60, said she felt a certain dread as she slowly approached the El Monte Police Department Wednesday morning.

Morse, an El Monte resident, carried a glass vase with red roses, pink daisies and white lilies to leave in front of a bronze eagle statue sitting upon a stone perch dedicated to "those who served."

A memorial for El Monte Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana is displayed in El Monte, Calif., on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. The pair were killed in a shootout along with the suspect the day before while investigating a possible stabbing in a motel.
A memorial for El Monte Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana is displayed in El Monte, Calif., on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. The pair were killed in a shootout along with the suspect the day before while investigating a possible stabbing in a motel. (Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP)

The memorial was filled with candles, flowers, U.S. flags and "thank you" signs honoring two El Monte Police officers killed on duty Tuesday afternoon.

"This is the walk you never want to make, but you have to because these two officers had our backs, and now it's time to honor them," Morse said.

[MORE: Gunman who killed 2 Calif. officers was on probation for gun charge]

The gesture had extra meaning for Morse, who said she's often worried about the safety of her husband, Sgt. Ted Morse of the Los Angeles Police Department's Wilshire Division.

"We're a police family, and we know the dangers and the possibility of what happened yesterday," Lupe Morse said. "My heart breaks for the families."

The officers were identified Wednesday afternoon as Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana.

Capt. Andrew Meyer, who leads the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Bureau, said officers responded to a call for a possible stabbing at a motel Tuesday afternoon, confronted suspect Justin Flores in a motel room and fired their weapons. Flores ran out of the room and into a parking lot, where the officers fired again, Meyer said. Meyer said a gun was recovered next to Flores' body.

The sudden loss of two veteran police officers left the working-class suburb east of Los Angeles reeling on Wednesday.

El Monte City School District custodian Jimmy Tessier, 55, walked to a plaque dedicated to fallen El Monte Police officers. It listed Anthony "Tony" Arceo and Donald Ralph Johnston, who were killed in 1974 and 2002, respectively.

Tessier said a small prayer there and bowed his head in respect as he passed the eagle statue. Tessier grew up in El Monte, attended Cogswell Elementary and El Monte High School. He said he was stunned by the deaths.

"It was shocking to hear the news," said Tessier, who first saw an update on Facebook and then double-checked local news. "You just never expect that here in this community. We have our problems of course, but not this."

El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona was nearly brought to tears when she spoke of two police officers. She described them as "great fathers and great men. ... They grew up here; to us, they're El Monte homegrown," she said. "They're our boys."

"We're absolutely devastated; we're heartbroken," Ancona added. "Words can't express what we're feeling right now."

Ancona said a memorial fund and funeral service details will be released later in the week. As for the area around the Siesta Inn, some nearby residents described it as dangerous.

The police tape went up near Juan Hernandez's apartment on Central Avenue in El Monte at about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday he said, which led friends, neighbors and even strangers to ask him what happened.

The city resident said he was at home just past 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when he heard a smattering of gunfire in which the two officers and one suspect were killed.

"At first it was about six shots that you could hear, and then a spraying of at least a dozen. I would guess there were at least 20 shots," Hernandez said.

Hernandez quickly hurried his two children, both under 10 years old, from the living room to a bedroom. He then rushed outside his gate to see what had happened.

The Siesta Inn, where the shooting took place, is about 50 yards from his home. Hernandez said he saw a body lying on the pavement near the intersection of Central and Garvey avenues.

"Shootings happen here with some frequency, at least every few months," he said. "It's just part of living here."

"It's scary."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Recommended for you

Copyright © 2022 Police1. All rights reserved.