California police officers killed honored at memorial service

Law enforcement and Los Angeles officials gathered Thursday for a memorial service to remember two police officers who were shot in the line of duty.

Crowds filled Toyota Arena in Ontario to remember El Monte Police Sgt. Michael Paredes, 42, and Officer Joseph Santana, 32. Both were killed on June 14 while responding to a local motel east of Los Angeles following a reported stabbing.

They both left behind wives and young children.

The day began with a procession from the El Monte Police Department to the arena. At the memorial service, speakers remembered the men for their community service, bravery, sense of duty and devotion to their families.

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“Mike and Joseph were heroes. I’m not saying this because they died. I’m saying this because of how they lived,” El Monte Police Chief Ben Lowry said. “They were the best of us.”

“An entire community mourns their loss,” said Bianca Santana, younger sister of Joseph Santana.

Both men grew up in El Monte, where mourners have left flowers and messages of thanks since the murders. They were the third and fourth department officers to be killed in the line of duty.

They were sent to the motel following a report that a woman had been stabbed. They then confronted the alleged shooter, identified as Justin Flores, and a gunfight ensued.

Flores killed the officers and then killed himself, authorities said. At the time of the murders, he was on probation for a firearms charge. The shooting happened a day after his probation officer asked him to return to court.

The deaths prompted a serious backlash against Los Angeles County District George Gascon, whose office gave Flores a plea deal on an unrelated charge. In his defense, Gascon said Flores, a known member of the gang, had no history of violence prior to the officers’ deaths.

“He was basically someone who had been a drug addict for many years. He had been arrested mainly for drug-related offenses,” Gascón said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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