ONTARIO, Calif. (AP) — Family members, friends and members of law enforcement attended a funeral Thursday for two Southern California police officers slain earlier this month while investigating a report of a possible stabbing.
El Monte Police Department Officer Joseph Santana, 31, and Cpl. Michael Paredes, 42, were fatally shot June 14 outside a suburban motel east of Los Angeles.
A procession of police cars from agencies across the state escorted hearses carrying the officers’ caskets from El Monte to Ontario, where hundreds packed Toyota Arena for the memorial service.
Speakers remembered the men for their community service, bravery, sense of duty and devotion to their families.
Santana is survived by his wife, a daughter and twin boys. Paredes is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son.
“An entire community mourns their loss,” said Bianca Santana, Joseph Santana’s younger sister
The officers’ families “were the reason they came to work every day,” acting El Monte police Chief Ben Lowry said.
“Mike and Joseph were heroes. I’m not saying that because they died. I’m saying that because of how they lived,” Lowry said. “They were the best of us.”
Both men were raised in El Monte, where mourners have left flowers and messages of thanks outside the police station in the city of 107,000 people. They became only the third and fourth officers in the El Monte Police Department’s history to die in the line of duty.
The officers were sent to the motel to investigate a report that a woman had possibly been stabbed.
Sheriff’s homicide Capt. Andrew Meyer has said that the officers confronted the suspect and gunfire erupted inside the motel room. The gunman ran outside and more gunfire was exchanged with other officers.
Justin Flores, the 35-year-old gunman who killed the officers, died by suicide, a coroner’s report said.
Flores was on probation for a gun charge at the time of the shooting, which occurred a day after his probation officer requested that he return to court later in the month, court records show.
The Peace Officers Research Association of California established a fundraising campaign on behalf of the officers’ families.