El Monte to close city facilities to mourn two police officers | KFI AM 640

EL MONTE (CNS) – El Monte Town Hall and all city facilities are closed to the public on Monday to allow employees to mourn the loss of two police officers killed in the line of duty last week.

Cpl. Michael Paredes, 42, and Officer Joseph Santana, 31, were fatally shot on Tuesday after entering a motel room to confront a suspect in a knife attack. The suspect, Justin William Flores, 35, died at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner.

“My employees are mourning the loss of two officers who were part of our El Monte family,” City Manager Alma Martinez said Friday as she announced the closure. “As we all deal with this tragedy, we are making counseling services available to all of our staff and providing them with the support they need. This is a time for our board, our staff and our community to s to unite, to support each other and to come closer together as we heal.”

The city has coordinated with two professionals from Managed Health Network Providers, who will provide on-site guidance at the following locations:

— Aquatic center: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

— Court of Public Works: 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

— West Town Hall: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

— East City Hall: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Lunch will also be offered to all city employees on the El Monte Police Department’s outdoor patio from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Paredes and Santana were shot in the head around 5:10 p.m. Tuesday at the Siesta Inn, 10327 Garvey Ave., then transported to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where they died.

Lynn Covarrubias, Flores’ mother, told the Los Angeles Times that her son and his wife, who has a 7-year-old daughter, are estranged but often stay at the Siesta Inn.

Flores’ wife, Diana Flores, told CBS2 she was in the motel room with him Tuesday when the 911 call was made, saying officers were “trying to help me.”

“I am 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 entered the room, ‘Don’t come in – he has a gun.’

On Saturday, hundreds of San Gabriel Valley residents and community leaders mourned the two officers during a candlelight vigil at the El Monte Civic Center.

“It’s too bad that it takes a tragedy to bring the community together,” El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona told the crowd. “However, I am grateful that we are here to mourn the lives of these two brave men.”

At a Friday press conference, Santana’s mother, Olga Garcia, said policies implemented by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón resulted in 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 won’t know how his children (from Santana) feel.

“Crime is so high in California because criminals don’t stay in jail long enough. We need to hold criminals accountable for their actions. We need law and order.”

Gascón’s critics noted that Flores — a felon with a history of arrests — got a plea deal last year that saved him from jail time for possession of a firearm. Following the plea, the charges of possession of methamphetamine and being a felon in possession of ammunition were dropped, and Flores was placed on probation for two years and 20 days in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Jon Hatami, leader of a petition campaign to recall Gascón, blasted the plea deal, saying it was an example of Gascón’s policy against allegations of prior convictions for strike action in criminal cases, allowing defendants to avoid jail time and remain on the streets.

“When George Gascón implemented his general policies, he did not care about previous violent criminal history, the law, evidence, facts or public safety,” Hatami wrote on his Twitter page. “He ruled out all strike history on past and future cases no matter what. His apology now just isn’t true.”

The District Attorney’s Office released a statement Wednesday evening saying, “The sentence (Flores) received in the firearms case was consistent with case resolutions for this type of offense given his criminal history and the nature of the offence. At the time the court convicted him, Mr. Flores had no documented history of violence.”

The office noted that Flores’ previous burglary conviction was for the burglary of her grandparents’ home.

Gascón released another statement late Friday, expressing his condolences for the fallen officers and their families, but without directly addressing criticism of his policies.

“The deceased officers were husbands, fathers and friends,” he said. “We know families are hurt and devastated by the loss of a cherished family member. Our hearts break for them as they face this Father’s Day weekend without their loved ones. Our office has and will continue to hold those who commit acts of violence accountable for their actions.

“…Our work will now focus on supporting families and doing everything in our power to keep our community safe.”

The lobbying organization Peace Officers Research Association of California launched a fundraising campaign on behalf of the families of the officers. Donations can be made at porac.org/fundraiser/el-monte-police-officiels/.

Both officers lived in Upland but grew up in El Monte, and both were married fathers with children.

Paredes started as an EMPD cadet and was sworn in as a full-time police officer in July 2000, city officials said. He is survived by his 18-year-old wife, a 16-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son.

Santana spent six years working for the city’s Department of Public Works, then worked for three years as a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy. He joined the El Monte Police Department last year. He is survived by his wife of seven years, a 9-year-old daughter and 2-year-old twins.

Funeral arrangements were still pending.

Richard F. Gandhi