Thousands of law enforcement officers from across the region gathered Thursday for a memorial service in Ontario to honor two El Monte police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty, the men being hailed as “valiant heroes”.
The Toyota Arena ceremony, which followed a solemn procession that began at El Monte Police Headquarters, was held in remembrance of Sgt. Michael Paredes, 42, and Officer Joseph Santana, 31, who were shot June 14 while responding to a reported stabbing at a motel. Both are survived by wives and young children.
“Like all of us, they chose to be police officers, but they didn’t choose to be taken from us,” El Monte Police Chief Ben Lowry told mourners. “I want the families to note that there is no way they willfully allow themselves to be taken from you.
“You were the reason they came to work every day,” Lowry said. “But they left this world as valiant heroes; Mike and Joseph were heroes. I’m not saying that because they’re dead. I say that because of the way they lived. We will never forget Mike and Joseph. Thank you for sharing them with us. They were the best of us.
The motorcade, with dozens of officers on motorbikes and dozens more in law enforcement vehicles, departed at 8:30 a.m. and began with participants passing under an American flag draped from two ladder trucks. fire department, then headed east on the San Bernardino (10) Highway to the arena.
The memorial service, which began shortly after 10 a.m., was not open to the public, but was open to all uniformed law enforcement personnel.
“Today is the hardest day of my family’s life,” said Santana’s sister, Bianca Santana. “We come together to say goodbye to a son, a brother, a father, a husband, a grandson, a nephew and a friend. For those of you here – and anyone who knew Joseph – you are already aware of the type of person he was.
Bella Paredes remembered her father, Michael.
“All my life I was told I was my father’s daughter,” she said. “In the days leading up to my father’s passing, I began to recognize who he was to me and what he meant to others around him. … I realized how much I loved him and how great he was.
The ceremony also included a riderless horse provided by the Anaheim Police Department, a 21-shot salute by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, and a flyover by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Paredes and Santana were shot and killed on the afternoon of June 14 when they entered a room at the Siesta Inn at 10327 Garvey Ave. to confront a suspect in a reported knife attack.
The suspect, 35-year-old probationer Justin William Flores, fled the room after the shooting and exchanged gunfire with at least one other officer in a parking lot. He later died at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.
Both Paredes and Santana were shot in the head, according to the coroner’s office. They were taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead.
Paredes was a corporal at the time of the shooting, but was posthumously promoted to sergeant.
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, 16-year-old daughter and 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.
After the officers’ deaths, LA County District Attorney George Gascón came under fire for policies that critics say allowed Flores – a felon with a history of arrests – to be on the streets.
Flores received a plea deal last year that saved him from jail time for gun possession. Following the plea, the charges of possession of methamphetamine and being a felon in possession of ammunition were dropped, and Flores was placed on two years’ probation, serving 20 days in prison.
Santana’s mother, Olga Garcia, said the policies implemented by Gascón resulted in the deaths of her son and Paredes.
Gascón – the target of a recall effort – insisted the plea deal was “appropriate in the circumstances”. He also conceded that “we have a flawed criminal justice system” and said it was impossible to “predict 100% of the time” what will happen with defendants in the future.
The Los Angeles County Probation Department also later came under fire for its handling of Flores’ case.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that in the days before the officers died, the county probation department received reports that Flores was in possession of a gun and had beaten a woman. However, Flores had not been seen in person by his probation officer for more than six months, the newspaper reported.
The lobbying organization Peace Officers Research Association of California has set up a fundraising campaign on behalf of the families of the officers. Donations can be made at porac.org/fundraiser/el-monte-police-officiels/.
More than $390,000 had been raised through this effort as of Thursday.
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