Gunman killed El Monte police officers seconds after they entered room

The freshman 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 removed the victim from the room, Officer Joseph Santana entered, followed by his training officer, Cpl. Michael Paredes. Justin Flores, the man inside, went back into the bathroom, law enforcement officials told The Times.

Within about 12 seconds, a source said, Flores ambushed officers with gunfire. Paredes went down first. Coroners said both officers died from a gunshot wound to the head.

The murders brought grief and heartache to the east of downtown LA suburb, where both officers grew up and chose to stay on as first responders. “They’re grown by El Monte themselves,” Mayor Jessica Ancona said this week. “These are our boys.”

The horrific details of the moments leading up to the killings and the ensuing rampant shooting emerged on Friday as the officers’ friends and family gathered to mourn. The sources who described the scene asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

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

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

Flores ran into a parking lot, where other responding officers engaged him in a shootout. Flores – who was 6ft 2 and weighed about 300lbs – fell to the ground but continued to fire at officers. He then shot himself as officers moved in, the sources said.

Flores died at the scene. Coroners have not determined which shots killed him.

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

A Friday afternoon news conference outside the El Monte Police Department began with a minute’s silence for the fallen officers.

El Monte Police Union President Ron Danison called the two officers his brothers. “Complete Paredes and Officer Santana didn’t show up for work today. I expected to see her walking through the station doors with her smile on,” said Danison. “That didn’t happen today; Instead I stand here and try to understand the unthinkable.”

Paredes began as a cadet in the department and was sworn in as a full-time officer in July 2000. He is survived by his wife, daughter and son. Ancona, the mayor, said he had “passed through our El Monte schools” and was “excited to be on the field.”

Santana, an El Monte High graduate, served as the San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy for three years before joining the El Monte Police Department less than a year ago. Before joining law enforcement, he was a town clerk in El Monte for six years. He leaves behind his wife, daughter and twins.

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

“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. atty George Gascón for politics, she said prioritize criminals over cops.

The Times reported this week that Flores could have faced significantly more time in prison the last time he was charged with a crime. Documents reviewed by The Times showed that one of Gascón’s most criticized actions likely resulted in a reduced sentence.

In 2020, Flores was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and methamphetamine.

He was convicted of burglary in 2011. Burglaries are “strike” offenses that give suspects who are charged with subsequent offenses more severe sentences. Flores’ earlier conviction means he took a swipe at him when he was charged in 2020.

But the prosecutor handling the case, Deputy Dist. atty Larry Holcomb wrote in a disposition report that he had to withdraw the strike allegations after Gascón took office and barred prosecutors from filing strikes. Gascón’s policies were later ruled illegal by an LA County Superior Court judge.

Flores did not deny possession of a firearm and was sentenced to two years probation and 20 days in prison; he could have faced up to three years in prison for the weapons charge. He was still on probation at the time of filming this week.

The day before the shooting, the Flores probation officer petitioned the court for a revocation hearing, citing desertion as the reason. Two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said his girlfriend reported he assaulted her last week, triggering a parole violation, but Flores has not been taken into custody. A hearing was scheduled for June 27.

When asked why Flores was not arrested for the violation, Karla Tovar, a spokeswoman for the county parole board, said the board is “currently continuing to investigate the matter.”

Times contributor James Queally contributed to this report. Gunman killed El Monte police officers seconds after they entered room

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