El Monte’s City Hall, as well as all city facilities, will close Monday to allow employees to grieve the loss of two police officers killed in the line-of-duty last week.
Officer Joseph Santana, 31, and Corporal Michael Paredes (42) were both fatally shot after entering a motel room in pursuit of a suspect. According to the Los Angeles County Coroner, Justin William Flores (35), died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
“My employees are grieving the loss of two officers who were part of our El Monte family,”Alma Martinez, City Manager, announced Friday the closure. “As we all cope with this tragedy, we are making counseling services available to all our staff and providing them with the support they need. This is the time for our Council, staff, and community to be united, support one another and grow closer together as we heal.”
The city has teamed up with two Managed Health Network professionals, who will offer on-site counseling Monday at these locations.
- Aquatics Center: 8-11 AM
- Public Works Yard: 8-11 AM
- City Hall West: 1-4 p.m.
- City Hall East: 1-5 pm
All city employees will be served lunch at the El Monte Police Department’s patio, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Santana, Paredes, and Santana were both shot in the head on Tuesday, May 10, at approximately 5:10 p.m.
Lynn Covarrubias was Flores’ mother. She told the Los Angeles Times that her son and his wife had a 7 year old daughter. However, they often stayed at the Siesta Inn.
Diana Flores Flores was Flores’ wife and was present in the motel with him Tuesday when the 911 call came in. According to CBS2, Flores said that they were both there. “were trying to help me.”
“I’m so deeply sorry,” she told the station. “My condolences for saving me. She said she tried to warn the officers that Flores was armed. “I told them before they went in the room, `Don’t go in — he has a gun.’”
Saturday night, hundreds of San Gabriel Valley residents and community leaders gathered at El Monte Civic Center to remember the officers.
“It’s unfortunate it takes tragedy to bring the community together,”Jessica Ancona, El Monte Mayor, addressed the crowd. “However, I am grateful that we are here to mourn the lives of these two brave men.”
During a Friday news conference Santana’s mother, Olga Garcia, said policies implemented by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón led to the deaths of her son and Paredes.
“I blame the death of my son and his partner on Gascón,” Garcia said.
“Gascón will never know how I feel. Gascón will never know how he destroyed our families. He will never know the feelings of his (Santana) children.
“Crime is so high in California because criminals don’t stay in jail long enough. We need to make criminals responsible for their actions. We need law and order.”
Gascón’s critics have noted that Flores — a felon with a history of arrests — was given a plea deal last year that allowed him to avoid prison time for being in possession of a firearm. Flores was released from prison after pleading guilty to methamphetamine possession, felon in possession ammunition, and two-year probation. He will also spend 20 days in jail.
Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, a leader of a petition drive to recall Gascón, blasted the plea deal, saying it was an example of Gascón’s policies against alleging prior strike convictions in criminal cases, allowing defendants to avoid prison time and remain on the streets.
“When George Gascón implemented his blanket policies, he didn’t care about prior violent criminal history, the law, evidence, facts or public safety,”Hatami posted on his Twitter account. “He excluded all strike priors on past & future cases no matter what. His excuses now are just not true.”
Wednesday night, the District Attorney’s Office released a statement stating that “The sentence (Flores) received in the firearm case was consistent with case resolutions for this type of offense given his criminal history and the nature of the offense. At the time the court sentenced him, Mr. Flores did not have a documented history of violence.”
The office found out that Flores had been convicted in a previous burglary case for stealing the house of his grandparents.
Gascón issued another statement late Friday, expressing condolences for the fallen officers and their families, but not directly addressing criticisms of his policies.
“The fallen officers were husbands, fathers and friends,”He said. “We know that the families are hurt and devastated by the loss of a cherished family member. As they face Father’s Day without their loved ones, our hearts are broken. We will continue to hold those who perpetrate violence accountable.
“… Our work now will focus on supporting the families and working to ensure we do everything we can to protect the safety our community.”
The lobbying organization Peace Officers Research Association of California, established a fundraising campaign on behalf of the officers’ families. Donations can be made at porac.org/fundraiser/el-monte-police-officers/.
Both officers were born in Upland, but they were raised in El Monte.
Paredes was an EMPD cadet when he was sworn into the police force in July 2000. His wife of 18 year, a 16-year old daughter and a son are his survivors.
Santana worked six years for the city’s Public Works Department. After that, he was a three-year San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy. He was a member of the El Monte Police Department in 2013. His wife of seven years, a daughter of 9 and twin boys of 2 years are his survivors.
Funeral arrangements are still in progress.