The man who killed two El Monte police officers was on probation for illegally carrying a firearm when he fired at officers as they responded to a call for service at a motel on Tuesday, court records show .
A day after Cpl. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were shot dead, which shocked many in this San Gabriel Valley suburb who worked so hard to distance themselves from the violence that plagued it decades ago, a clearer picture has emerged in man who authorities say killed officers before being shot dead himself.
Law enforcement sources identified the gunman as Justin Flores, 35. Arrested in 2020 and charged with possession of methamphetamine, a handgun and ammunition, Flores requested no contest in February 2021 on possession of a firearm as a criminal, the records show. Prosecutors dismissed the other cases.
Flores, who previously served two terms in prison for burglary and car theft, has been banned from carrying a firearm since 2011.
Even if only a gun conviction could send him to prison for three years, Flores was instead sentenced to two years probation and 20 days in prison, which he has already served, a prosecutor said in a request to request. Flores was ordered not to possess any firearms, including firearms, ammunition and knives, a transcript of what was shown at the hearing. He was warned that if he violated these terms, he could be jailed for up to three years.
On Monday, a day before the shooting, Flores’ probation officer filed a request with the court for a revocation hearing, which listed the reason as “desertion.” Two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said his girlfriend reported he attacked her last week, causing a probation violation, but Flores was not taken into custody. A hearing is scheduled for June 27th.
Asked why Flores was not arrested for the violation, Karla Tovar, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Probation Department, said the agency is “currently investigating the matter.”
About 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Paredes and Santana responded to the report of the robbery at the Siesta Inn, a one -story, stucco motel on Garvey Avenue.
What happened next remains unclear, but a source familiar with the incident said officers were reprimanded after knocking on the door of one of the motel rooms.
Capt. Revealed. Andrew Meyer, who heads the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau, said that after exchanging bullets in the room, Flores ran toward the parking lot, where officers fired again.
Paredes and Santana were taken to LA County-USC Medical Center, where they died. Flores died on the spot. Meyer said a gun was found near his body.
Even if El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona said the officers were “ambushed,” Meyer would not say if the officers were attacked immediately upon arrival at the motel.
“We don’t have all the facts yet,” he said Tuesday night, standing outside the hospital where Paredes and Santana died.
Paredes started as a cadet in the department and in July 2000 was sworn in as a full-time officer. He is survived by his wife, son and son. Ancona described him as a nearly 22 -year veteran “who has been through our schools in El Monte” and who is “excited to be a force.”
Santana served for three years as deputy San Bernardino County sheriff before being transferred to the El Monte Police Department less than a year later. Prior to joining law enforcement, she worked as a maintenance worker in the city of El Monte for six years and graduated from El Monte High School. He is survived by his wife, daughter and twin sons.
“They grew up here; for us, they are homegrown in El Monte, ”said Ancona. “They’re our men.”
The mayor said a memorial fund and details of the funeral service will be released later this week.
“They are good people,” Capt. Ben Lowry, the acting chief of the El Monte Police Department, said Tuesday night. “These two heroes paid the highest sacrifice today. They were killed by a mockery. ”
Flores’ mother Lynn Covarrubias said her son’s wife called Tuesday and was told he was dead, but she didn’t believe it.
“Even with the pictures they showed me of my son lying on the ground, I just thought,‘ Take him to the hospital. You can save him, ‘”said Covarrubias, 54.
For the record:
7:13 pm June 15, 2022A previous version of this story says that Justin Flores and his wife have a 7-year-old daughter. Flores has a daughter with his ex -girlfriend.
Flores and his wife separated, and he would always stay at the Siesta Inn, Covarrubias said. Flores also has a 7-year-old daughter with his ex-girlfriend Leona Willard.
Covarrubias said he was detained for several hours, even though he was not at the motel when the shooting occurred. She said officers continue to call her son “amazing.”
“It hurts to hear them say that. He was also a man. He has a daughter, ”Covarrubias said. “I want them to know, no matter what happens, he is loving and caring.”
Law enforcement sources said Flores was a member of Quiet Village, a Whittier -based gang. A photo kept by the state prison system shows he has the word “Silent” printed on his right cheek.
Flores was first jailed at age 22 for car theft, spending two months in prison in 2009, records show. In 2011, he was sent back to prison for robbery and released after 10 months.
Records show Flores was arrested multiple times for low -level crimes – theft, driving violations and drug possession – but nothing came close to the level of violence that killed the two. police on Tuesday night.
Juan Hernandez, who lives near the hotel, said he heard gunshots past 4:30 p.m.
“At first you will hear about six shots and then spray at least a dozen. I would guess there were at least 20 shots, ”said Hernandez.
Hernandez quickly carried her two children, who were less than 10 years old, from the living room to a bedroom. Then he ran outside his gate to see what was happening. The Siesta Inn, where the shooting took place, was about 50 yards from his home. He saw a body lying on the pavement near the intersection of Central and Garvey avenue. Hernandez believes it was a suspect and not an officer “because I didn’t see a uniform.”
Mayra Lomeli, 49, heard three gunshots and dived under a table at El Perico Market, a block from the Siesta Inn.
Lomeli, a resident of El Monte, said he overcame his fear and ran to close the entrance door, fearing that a killer would try to break in.
“I don’t know what happened, but I do know that sometimes desperate people run near buildings looking to escape,” he said.
On Wednesday morning, Lupe Morse, 60, approached the El Monte Police Department with fear. she carrying a glass vase with red roses, pink daisies and white lilies to leave in front of a bronze eagle statue dedicated to “those who serve.”
The memorial was filled with candles, flowers, U.S. flags and “thank you” signs honoring the two officers.
“It’s a walk you don’t want to do, but you have to because these two officers support us, and now it’s time to honor them,” said Morse, a resident of El Monte.
The move has added meaning for Morse, who said she was concerned about the safety of her husband, Sgt. Ted Morse of the Wilshire Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.
“We are a police family, and we know the dangers and the possibility of what happened yesterday,” Lupe Morse said. “My heart is broken for the families.”
El Monte City School District custodian Jimmy Tessier, 55, stands on a plaque dedicated to fallen El Monte Police officers. It has two names – Anthony “Tony” Arceokilled in 1974, and Donald Ralph Johnson, in 2002 — and there are two more to come.
Tessier, who grew up in El Monte, prayed there and bowed his head.
“It was shocking to hear the news,” Tessier said. “You never expected to be here in this community. We have our problems of course, but it’s not. ”