Two officers shot and killed on the job were remembered by family, colleagues and the El Monte community, when a sea of people touched by their lives and services gathered for a vigil Saturday night.
Officer Joseph Anthony Santana, 31, and his partner, Cpl. Michael Domingo Paredes, 42, were killed Tuesday during a gunfight in El Monte where they were responding to a report of a stabbing.
Authorities say the officers confronted the suspect in a room at the motel, leading to gunfire. The suspect ran outside into a parking lot, where another shooting occurred.
The officers were taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where they both died.
The suspect was identified as 35-year-old Justin William Flores.
Law enforcement officials originally said Flores died at the scene of the shooting but the coroner’s office confirmed late Saturday that Flores died by suicide.
The vigil outside the civics center on Valley Boulevard in El Monte honored Joseph Santana and Michael Paredes, who died while responding to a domestic violence call on Tuesday.
The street was closed off for hours to accommodate the many people who arrived to show their support, and those mourners left candles behind as part of a memorial dedicated to the two men.
The hometown heroes were also honored outside the El Monte Police Department.
“Born and raised in El Monte, they chose the path to come back and protect the community they loved,” El Monte mayor Jessica Ancona said at the vigil.
“They pursued their dreams,” said LA County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “And they did it with you, the family and the community.”
Hundreds grieved their loss.
Paredes was a 22-year veteran of the El Monte Police Department, his family said. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.
“Michael had a huge heart,” his sister said. “Big hugs for everyone, and that perfect smile that he was known for by all. And he had a spirit to match it.”
Santana followed in his stepfather’s footsteps, joining him as an El Monte police officer. He is survived by his wife, daughter, and two-year-old twin boys.
His brother in law read a letter to Santana from his wife at the vigil.
“I never knew this level of pain existed,” the letter said. “Every inch of my body is broken missing you. I miss seeing you play with the kids. Your heart is one of a kind. Every person that met you loved you.”
Santana’s mother thanked the community for their support.
“I wish he was here to see how much he was loved, but I know he’s watching from up above.”
And at the memorial left to the two officers Saturday night, their photos were surrounded with flowers, bouquets, candles and messages thanking them for their services.
Source: NBC Los Angeles