The man who allegedly shot and killed two El Monte police officers Tuesday while they were responding to a call of a possible stabbing at a motel was on probation for a gun charge at the time of the shooting, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The suspect’s mother, Lynn Covarrubias, told the paper on Wednesday that her son, Justin Flores, was killed by police in the shooting.
Two sources with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office—who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so publicly—identified Flores as the shooter. Court records show he was on probation for a gun possession offense when the killings occurred.
According to Capt. Andrew Meyer, who leads the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau, the shooting happened just before 5 p.m. at the Siesta Inn near Central and Garvey avenues, where officers responded to a report about a possible stabbing.
Upon arrival, the officers confronted the suspect and gunfire erupted inside a motel room. The gunman fled the room into a parking lot, where officers fired again.
Three officers opened fire during the exchange, a source in the Sheriff’s Department told the Times.
Two of the officers and the suspect were struck by gunfire, Meyer said. The two wounded officers were taken to L.A. County-USC Medical Center, where they died from their injuries.
Flores was pronounced dead at the scene and investigators said a gun was recovered next to his body.
Though El Monte’s mayor said the officers were “essentially ambushed” in the shootout, Meyer would not indicate whether the cops were attacked immediately upon arriving at the motel, according to the Times. He declined to give details about the events preceding the exchange of gunfire.
The El Monte Police Department on Wednesday afternoon identified the slain officers as Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana. Paredes started as a cadet with the department and was sworn in as a full-time officer in July 2000. He is survived by his wife, daughter, and son.
Santana worked for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy sheriff for roughly three years before joining the El Monte Police Department. He is survived by his wife, daughter, and twin boys.
“There are no words to describe our grief and devastation by this senseless act as we learned about the passing of two of our police officers,” the city and Police Department said in a joint statement.
“They were good men,” Capt. Ben Lowry, the El Monte Police Department’s acting chief, told the Times. “These two heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice today. They were murdered by a coward.”
El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona said a memorial fund and funeral service details will be released later in the week.
On Tuesday night, investigators were looking for surveillance footage and interviewing witnesses, including a woman who was inside the motel room when police arrived, according to Meyer. The woman had not been stabbed.
Covarrubias, the alleged gunman’s mother, told the Times that she did not know the woman who was in the motel room with her son when officers arrived. She said her son and his wife were separated and that he often stayed at the Siesta Inn motel. The couple had a 7-year-old daughter.
Her son’s wife called Covarrubias on Tuesday to tell her that 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 said. She said that the police have been rude to her and tried to detain her for several hours after the shooting, despite the fact that she wasn’t at the motel when the incident occurred.
“It hurts to hear them say that,” she said of authorities calling her son a “coward.” “He was a person too. He had a daughter.”
She added, “I want them to know in spite of what happened, he was loving and caring.”
Two law enforcement sources told the Times that Flores is a member of the Quiet Village gang. He was arrested in March 2020 and charged with being a felon in possession of methamphetamine, a handgun and ammunition, court records show, according to the Times.
Flores pleaded no contest on Feb. 10, 2021 to being a felon in possession of a firearm as part of a plea deal, and prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of felon in possession of ammunition and possession of methamphetamine. He was sentenced to two years’ probation and 20 days in jail, which he had already served.
He was ordered not to possess any weapons, including guns, ammunition and knives, according to a transcript of the plea hearing.
Flores had been restricted from having a gun since 2011, when he was convicted of first degree burglary. He was due in court on June 27 for a hearing over the probation violation.
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