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El Monte honors slain police officers two years after shooting – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

El Monte Police Chief Jake Fisher stands at attention at a memorial for slain police officers Sergeant Michael Paredes and Joseph Santana, photos in the background, on Friday, June 14, 2024. The officers were killed in the line of duty two years ago. A short ceremony was held in their honor on Friday, the 2nd anniversary. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

On Friday, June 14, El Monte community members and leaders gathered at the city's police department to commemorate the second anniversary of the fatal shooting of police officers Joseph Santana and Michael Paredes.

Floral wreaths in honor of Santana (officer) and Paredes (sergeant) were laid next to a monument honoring those killed in the line of duty.

Painted stones surround plaques placed on the ground with the service numbers of Paredes and Santana – 565 and 706 respectively.

Melinda Paredes, the sister of slain El Monte police Sergeant Michael Paredes, pauses outside memorials for fallen police officers on Friday, June 14, 2024. Paredes and her colleague Joseph Santana were killed in the line of duty two years ago. A short ceremony was held in their honor on Friday, the second anniversary. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Melinda Paredes, the sister of slain El Monte police Sergeant Michael Paredes, pauses outside memorials for fallen police officers on Friday, June 14, 2024. Paredes and her colleague Joseph Santana were killed in the line of duty two years ago. A short ceremony was held in their honor on Friday, the second anniversary. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

At 12 noon, El Monte police officers stood outside the monument and began a 24-hour vigil – standard procedure when a police officer dies. For 24 hours, two police officers will take turns every 15 minutes to guard the monument of Santana and Paredes in front of the police station.

Two years ago, Santana and Paredes responded to a 911 call from Maria Zepeda, who reported that her daughter, Diana Flores Cruz, had been stabbed to death at the Siesta Inn by her husband, Justin Flores.

Santana and Paredes knocked on the door of Flores' hotel room for several minutes. When the door opened, Flores shot the two police officers and later committed suicide.

Two years later, it was clear Friday that the community, the officers' families and city employees were still grieving.

At some point, members of the Paredes came to this solemn place to reflect.

El Monte Police Department Chief Jake Fisher said Friday that the deaths of Santana and Paredes have been “emotionally devastating” to his police department and city employees since the day of the shooting.

“We have come together a little more. We still have a long way to go,” he said. “We preach continuous improvement [and] Getting a little better every day, in all areas and units of the police and in ourselves.”

Since the deaths of Santana and Paredes, the El Monte Police Department has strived to “improve its operations and efficiency.”

“Thanks to the support of our city manager and the majority of our city council, we have been provided with numerous resources to make improvements,” Fisher said.

These specific internal improvements include the installation of a phone tree for all non-emergency calls. In addition, the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems will provide dispatched police officers with color codes and sound signals to warn them of potential dangers when they arrive at the scene.

The improvements came against the backdrop of criticism that important information – such as that Flores was under the influence of drugs – was fed into the police officers' computer-aided operational system at the time, but was not transmitted via radio.

That issue, along with criticism of prosecutors over an earlier settlement that gave Flores only probation instead of a “third offense” on his record, has created tensions and fueled anger among family members toward the city and county.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the Santana and Paredes families against Los Angeles County, LA County Probation, LA District Attorney's Office, District Attorney George Gascón, and the Siesta Inn recently reached a settlement.

A judge released the district defendants last year.

Fisher said the city's police community is “close-knit.”

“We rely heavily on communication with the contact persons – whoever they are – with the family. We are in constant communication with them [the Paredes and Santana families] “We work with the department’s family liaisons to try to support them as best we can,” Fisher explained.