EL MONTE, Calif. (KABC) -- At a rally in front of El Monte Police Department headquarters on Monday, the family of a slain officer said dispatchers withheld crucial information before the shooting that left two policemen dead.
On June 14, 2022, Sgt. Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were gunned down outside a motel by a convicted felon, identified by authorities as Justin William Flores, who was on probation for a weapons violation. Flores later died by suicide.
At the protest on Monday morning, Santana's loved ones said that two El Monte police dispatchers -- who are still employed by the department -- did not adequately relay valuable information that could have saved the officers' lives. After the accusations first came to light, one of the dispatchers decided to go on paid leave.
The demonstrators carried signs that read "Justice for Joseph" and "We Won't Rest Until There's Justice." Santana's family said they simply want accountability, calling for the two dispatchers to be terminated from their jobs and banned from working in law enforcement again.
Officials with the police department and the police union attended the family's news conference but did not participate. The officials have expressed support for the dispatchers, noting that the deadly incident occurred on a very day for the department.
The dispatchers did not withhold the information, but rather sent it to Paredes and Santana digitally, officials said, adding that the department is short-staffed.
"The victim's mother called El Monte PD and stated several times that the suspect had a gun and was dangerous and on PCP," Santana's sister, Bianca Santana, said at the news conference. "Two El Monte dispatchers failed to voice and broadcast this information to my brother Joseph Santana and his partner."
Had her brother and Paredes known that the suspect was armed with a gun, Bianca Santana said, "different tactics and resources would have been utilized. Having that information could have allowed them to be aware of the threat that they were facing and potentially even sparing their lives."
In a statement, El Monte Police Chief Jake Fisher said in part: "LASD and LA County DA Investigators have interviewed all relevant witnesses, reviewed all police camera footage, CAD reports, call logs and have found no wrongdoing by our police officers or civilian personnel. We fully anticipate this finding to hold and that our DA will officially clear all involved officers and close the investigation."
"I don't care if they typed it," said Sasha Santana, the fallen officer's widow, her voice choked with emotion. "My husband's adrenaline was rushing, thinking he was going to save a woman. He was not reading outside of his unit, he was listening for instructions."
Bianca Santana said the lapse in communication "isn't just a mistake. Mistakes can be fixed, this cannot. We will never have my brother back."
"We're dissecting this," Wyatt Reneer, president of the El Monte Police Officers Association, told ABC7. "It's easy to, again, play the "What if?" game. But, at the end of the day, there's only one person that was responsible for the deaths and the murders of our partners. And that's where we need to place the focus on, not at anyone did anything wrong. (We're) just here in support and unity of our department."