Heartbroken El Monte mourns two officers fatally shot

Lupe Morse, 60, said she felt some anxiety as she slowly approached the El Monte Police Department on Wednesday morning.

Morse, a resident of El Monte, carried a glass vase of red roses, pink daisies, and white lilies to leave in front of a bronze eagle statue perched on a stone pole “dedicated to those who served.”

The memorial was filled with candles, flowers, US flags and “thank you” signs honoring two El Monte police officers killed on duty Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s the path you never want to take but have to, because those two officers have left us and now it’s time to honor them,” Morse said.

The gesture held additional meaning for Morse, who said she often worries for the safety of her husband, Sgt. Ted Morse of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division.

“We are a police family and we know the dangers and possibilities of what happened yesterday,” said Lupe Morse. “My heart beats for families.”

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

Capt. Andrew Meyer, who heads the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau, said officers responding to a call about a possible motel stabbing Tuesday afternoon, confronted suspect Justin Flores in a motel room and fired their guns. Flores ran out of the room and into a parking lot, where officers fired again, Meyer said. Meyer said a gun was found next to Flores’ body.

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

Jimmy Tessier, 55, the El Monte City School District administrator, walked to a plaque dedicated to the fallen El Monte police officers. It listed Anthony “Tony” Arceo and Donald Ralph Johnston killed in 1974 and 2002, respectively.

Tessier said a little prayer there and bowed his head respectfully 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 checked local news. “You just never expect that in this community. Of course we have our problems, but not this one.”

El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona was almost in tears when she spoke of two police officers. She described them as “great fathers and great men. … They grew up here; for us, they’re grown by El Monte himself,” she said. “These are our boys.”

“We are absolutely devastated; We are heartbroken,” added Ancona. “Words cannot express what we are feeling right now.”

Ancona said a memorial fund and details of the funeral service would be released later in the week. The area around the Siesta Inn has been described as dangerous by some residents.

Police tape was set up near Juan Hernandez’s apartment on Central Avenue in El Monte around 5:30 pm Tuesday, prompting friends, neighbors and even strangers to ask him what happened.

The townsman said he was home just after 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when he heard a couple of gunshots, killing the two officers and a suspect.

“First there were about six gunshots that could be heard, and then a spray burst of at least a dozen. I would estimate there were at least 20 shots,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez quickly moved his two children, both under 10, from the living room to a bedroom. Then he rushed outside his gate to see what had happened.

The Siesta Inn, where the shooting took place, is about 50 meters from his home. Hernandez said he saw a body lying on the sidewalk 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 life here.”

“Its scary.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-15/heartbroken-el-monte-mourns-two-officers Heartbroken El Monte mourns two officers fatally shot

Alley Einstein

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