EL MONTE, Calif. (KABC) -- Two days after two officers were gunned down while on duty, the community of El Monte continues to mourn - especially those with family members who work in law enforcement.
"It's heartbreaking," said Gail Reneer, whose son is an El Monte police officer. "That could have been my son. It could have been any of these guys. It's just heart-wrenching ... I just can't understand. I know it's real, but it's just hard."
As Reneer looked over a growing memorial outside of the El Monte Police Department Thursday, the question remains: How does one move forward from such tragedy?
Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were investigating a report of a possible stabbing in the Siesta Inn motel on Tuesday when they were killed.
The suspect - who has since been identified as Justin Flores - died at the scene, authorities said.
Several surrounding law enforcement agencies have since taken over patrol duties in the city of El Monte while local police officers continue to mourn the loss of their colleagues.
"All of these other departments that have come to take over our streets and give our guys time to be together and to grieve, and they need that," said Reneer.
Paredes began his law enforcement career as a cadet with the police department before being sworn in as a full-time police officer in July 2000, the statement said. During his time with the agency, Paredes worked several specialized assignments before being promoted to the rank of corporal.
He is survived by his wife, daughter and son.
Santana started his service with the City of El Monte as a part-time public works employee. After six years of service with the Public Works Department, he transitioned to a career in law enforcement.
Santana worked as a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy, where he served there for approximately three years. In 2021, he accepted a position as an El Monte police officer, "returning to his hometown to serve the community he grew up in."
Santana is survived by his wife, daughter and twin boys.
Some residents say they're outraged after it was reported that Flores was on probation for gun possession during the killings and had been arrested just last year for possession of a gun and drugs.
Deputy reflects on 2 El Monte officers killed in shootout: 'They served with respect'
"It's terrible that these types of people the suspect their out maybe he should have been incarcerated," said former El Monte Police Chief David Reynoso. "He should have been somewhere where he couldn't have caused harm to any member of the public whether police officer or any other innocent person."
According to court records, Flores had served a one-year, four-month sentence for vehicle theft in 2009.
In 2011, he served two years for first-degree burglary and was released to parole supervision in April 2012. He was discharged from parole supervision in August 2016.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon's responded to Flores' criminal history with the following statement issued Wednesday afternoon:
"Mr. Flores was convicted of burglarizing his grandparents' home more than 10 years ago, resulting in a strike. He was arrested in 2020 and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and for possession of narcotics for personal use. Last year, Mr. Flores pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, a felony. The sentence he received in the firearm case was consistent with case resolutions for this type of offense given his criminal history and the nature of the offense. At the time the court sentenced him, Mr. Flores did not have a documented history of violence."
A public candlelight vigil is expected to take place outside of the El Monte Police Department on Saturday, June 18, at 7 p.m.
The El Monte Police Officers Foundation have established a fund to support the families of Paredes and Santana.
You can visit the shared PayPal link to make a donation here.