The gunman who killed El Monte police faced a probation violation at the time of the shooting

The man who killed two El Monte police officers was on probation for illegally carrying a firearm when he shot officers while responding to a call for duty at a motel on Tuesday, court records show. .

One day after cape. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were shot, stunning many in this San Gabriel Valley suburb that worked hard to distance itself from the violence that plagued it decades ago, a clearer picture has emerged of the a man who authorities say killed the officers before being shot himself.

Law enforcement sources identified the shooter as 35-year-old Justin Flores. Arrested in 2020 and charged with possession of methamphetamine, a handgun and ammunition, Flores in February 2021 did not contest possession of a firearm as a felon, records show. Prosecutors dropped the other charges.

Flores, who had previously served two prison terms for burglary and auto theft, had been banned from carrying a weapon since 2011.

Although the gun conviction alone could have landed him in jail for three years, Flores was instead sentenced to two years probation and 20 days in jail, which he had already served, a prosecutor said. at a plea hearing. Flores was ordered not to possess any weapons, including guns, ammunition and knives, according to a transcript of the hearing. He was warned that if he breached these conditions, he could be sent to prison for up to three years.

On Monday, a day before the shooting, Flores’ probation officer filed a request in court for a dismissal hearing, listing the reason as “desertion.” Two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said his girlfriend reported he assaulted her last week, triggering a probation violation, but Flores was not taken into custody. A hearing has been set for June 27.

Asked why Flores was not arrested for a violation, Karla Tovar, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Probation Department, said the agency is “currently investigating the matter.”

Around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Paredes and Santana responded to a report of a stabbing at the Siesta Inn, a single-story stucco motel on Garvey Avenue.

What exactly happened next remains unclear, but a source familiar with the incident said officers came under fire after knocking on the door of one of the motel rooms.

Capt. Andrew Meyer, who heads the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau, said after an exchange of gunfire in the room, Flores rushed into a parking lot, where officers fired again.

Paredes and Santana were taken to LA-USC County Medical Center, where they died. Flores died at the scene. Meyer said a gun was found near his body.

Although El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona said the officers were “essentially ambushed,” Meyer did not say whether the officers were attacked immediately upon arriving 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 with the department and in July 2000 was sworn in as a full-time officer. He is survived by his wife, daughter and son. Ancona described him as a nearly 22-year veteran “who came through our schools in El Monte” and was “excited to be in the force.”

Santana served three years as a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy before transferring to the El Monte Police Department less than a year ago. Prior to joining law enforcement, he worked as a maintenance worker for the city of El Monte for six years and graduated from El Monte High School. He is survived by his wife, daughter and twins.

“They grew up here; for us, they are from El Monte,” Ancona said. “These are our boys.”

The mayor said a memorial fund and details of the funeral service will be released later in the week.

“They were good men,” Capt. Ben Lowry, acting chief of the El Monte Police Department, said Tuesday night. “These two heroes made the ultimate sacrifice today. They were murdered by a coward.

Flores’ mother, Lynn Covarrubias, said her son’s wife called on Tuesday and told her he was dead, but she didn’t believe it.

“Even the pictures they showed me of my son lying on the ground, I just thought, ‘Take him to the hospital. You can save him,'” Covarrubias, 54, said.

Flores and his wife were separated and he often stayed at the Siesta Inn, Covarrubias said. The couple have a 7-year-old daughter, she said.

Covarrubias said she was detained for several hours, even though she was not at the motel when the shooting took place. She said the police kept calling her son a “coward”.

“It hurts to hear them say that. He was a person too. He had a daughter,” Covarrubias said. “I want them to know, despite what happened, that he was loving and caring. .”

Law enforcement sources said Flores was a member of Quiet Village, a Whittier-based gang. A photograph held by the state prison system shows he had the word “Quiet” tattooed on his right cheek.

Flores first went to prison at age 22 for stealing a car, spending two months behind bars in 2009, records show. In 2011 he was sent back to prison for burglary and was released after 10 months.

Records show Flores was arrested multiple times for minor offenses — theft, driving offenses and drug possession — but nothing that approached the level of violence that left two police officers dead on Tuesday night.

Juan Hernandez, who lives near the hotel, said he heard gunshots shortly after 4:30 p.m.

“At first it was about six shots you could hear and then a spray of at least a dozen. I guess there were at least 20 shots,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez rushed her two children, both under the age of 10, from the living room to a bedroom. He then ran outside his door to see what had happened. The Siesta Inn, where the shooting took place, is about 50 yards from his home. He saw a body lying on the sidewalk near the intersection of Central and Garvey Avenues. Hernandez thought it was a suspect and not an officer “because I didn’t see a uniform.”

Mayra Lomeli, 49, heard three gunshots and dove under a table at El Perico Market, one block from the Siesta Inn.

Lomeli, an El Monte resident, said she overcame her fear and ran to close the front door, fearing a gunman was trying to break in.

“I didn’t know what was going on, but I know that sometimes desperate people run into nearby buildings to escape,” she said.

On Wednesday morning, 60-year-old Lupe Morse approached the El Monte Police Department with a sense of dread. She carried a glass vase with red roses, pink daisies and white lilies to leave in front of a bronze eagle statue dedicated to “those who served”.

The memorial was filled with candles, flowers, American flags and thank you signs honoring the two officers.

“This is the walk you never want to do, but you have to do it because these two officers had our backs, and now is the time to honor them,” said Morse, an El Monte resident.

The gesture had additional meaning for Morse, who said she was concerned for the safety of her husband, Sgt. Ted Morse of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Wilshire Division.

“We are a police family, and we know the dangers and the possibility of what happened yesterday,” said Lupe Morse. “My heart breaks for the families.”

El Monte City School District caretaker Jimmy Tessier, 55, stood in front of a plaque dedicated to deceased El Monte police officers. He had two names – Anthony “Tony” Arceo, killed in 1974, and Donald Ralph Johnston, in 2002 – and would have two more to come.

Tessier, who grew up in El Monte, says a little prayer there and bows his head.

“It was shocking to hear the news,” Tessier said. “You never expect that here in this community. We have our problems of course, but not this one.

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