Man accused of killing two El Monte police officers died by suicide: Coroner

The man who shot and killed two El Monte police officers died at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to the Los Angeles County coroner.

Authorities said Justin William Flores, 35, shot the two officers moments after they entered a  motel room where he had been holed up Tuesday and then ran into the parking lot, where he exchanged a second round of gunfire with other responding officers.

At some point, he turned the gun on himself.

El Monte police officer Joseph Anthony Santana, 31, and his partner, Cpl. Michael Domingo Paredes, 42, were killed around 5:10 p.m. Tuesday during the gunfight with Flores at the Siesta Inn, 10327 Garvey Ave., where they had responded to a reported stabbing.

Both officers were shot in the head and later transported to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where they died.

Lynn Covarrubias, Flores' mother, told the Los Angeles Times her son and his wife, who had a 7-year-old daughter, were separated, but would often stay at the Siesta Inn.

Flores' wife, Diana Flores, told CBS2 she was at the motel room with him Tuesday when the 911 call was made, saying the responding officers "were trying to help me."

"I'm so deeply sorry," she told the station. "My condolences for saving me."

She said she tried to warn the officers that Flores was armed.

"I told them before they went in the room, `Don't go in -- he has a gun."'

On Saturday, hundreds of San Gabriel Valley residents and community leaders mourned the two officers during a candlelight vigil at the El Monte Civic Center.

"It's unfortunate it takes tragedy to bring the community together," El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona told the crowd. "However, I am grateful that we are here to mourn the lives of these two brave men."

Other dignitaries at the vigil included Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who addressed the crowd in English and Spanish, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

"They pursued their dreams and they did it with you -- the family and the community," Solis said.

During a Friday news conference Santana's mother, Olga Garcia, said policies implemented by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón led to the deaths of her son and Paredes.

"I blame the death of my son and his partner on Gascón," Garcia said. "Gascón will never know how I feel. Gascón will never know how he destroyed our families. He won't know how his (Santana's) children feel.

"Crime is so high in California because criminals don't stay in jail long enough. We need to make criminals responsible for their actions. We need law and order."

Gascón's critics have noted that Flores -- a felon with a history of arrests -- was given a plea deal last year that allowed him to avoid prison time for being in possession of a firearm.

As a result of the plea, charges of methamphetamine possession and being a felon in possession of ammunition were dropped, and Flores was placed on two years probation, and 20 days in jail.

Garcia said her son "was murdered by a criminal that should have been in jail.

"Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón gives criminals more rights than police officers," she said through tears. "He has insane ideas about giving criminals a slap (on) the hand. ... We need death row and three- strikes law to come back. We need to enforce our laws so more police officers don't die."

Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, a leader of a petition drive to recall Gascón, blasted the plea deal, saying it was an example of Gascón's policies against alleging prior strike convictions in criminal cases, allowing defendants to avoid prison time and remain on the streets.

"When George Gascón implemented his blanket policies, he didn't care about prior violent criminal history, the law, evidence, facts or public safety," Hatami wrote on his Twitter page. "He excluded all strike priors on past & future cases no matter what. His excuses now are just not true."

The District Attorney's Office issued a statement Wednesday night saying, "The sentence (Flores) 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."

The office noted that Flores' prior burglary conviction was for burglarizing his grandparents' house.

But outside El Monte police headquarters Friday, Garcia was joined by relatives of other law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, along with supporters of the recall effort, directly blaming the district attorney for the deaths of Santana and Paredes.

"These two officers' deaths cannot be in vain," James Wheeler of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs said. "Michael and Joseph should be here today with their families. Instead, their families will be attending their funerals. Our heart breaks every time a peace officers is killed in the line of duty. We have a saying -- `Many gave some. Some gave all.' "

Wheeler said the ALADS Board of Directors voted Friday to contribute another $100,000 to the Gascón recall effort.

Gascón issued another statement late Friday, expressing condolences for the fallen officers and their families, but not directly addressing criticisms of his policies.

"The fallen officers were husbands, fathers and friends," he said. "We know that the families are hurt and devastated by the loss of a cherished family member. Our hearts break for them as they face this Father's Day weekend without their loved ones. Our office has and will continue to hold people who commit violence accountable for their actions.

"... Our work now will focus on supporting the families and working to ensure we do everything we can to protect the safety our community."

The lobbying organization Peace Officers Research Association of California, established a fundraising campaign on behalf of the officers' families. Donations can be made at officers/.

As of  Sunday morning, the fund had collected more than $281,000 toward a goal of $400,000.

Both officers lived in Upland but were raised in El Monte, and both were married fathers with children.

Paredes began as an EMPD cadet and was sworn in as a full-time police officer in July 2000, city officials said. He is survived by his wife of 18 years, a 16-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son.

Santana spent six years working for the city's Public Works Department, then worked for three years as a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy. He joined the El Monte Police Department last year. He is survived by his wife of seven years, a 9-year-old daughter and 2-year-old twin boys.

Funeral arrangements were still pending.