Slain California police officers honored at memorial service

El Monte police officers Michael Paredes and Joseph Santana were shot and killed while responding to a motel over a possible stabbing

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Law enforcement and officials from around Los Angeles gathered for a memorial service Thursday to remember two police officers who were gunned down in the line of duty. 

The crowd packed the Toyota Arena in Ontario to remember El Monte police Sgt. Michael Paredes, 42, and 32-year-old Officer Joseph Santana. Both were killed June 14 while responding to a local motel east of Los Angeles over a reported stabbing. 

They both left behind wives and young children. 

Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were killed in the line of duty. Hundreds gathered Thursday to memorialize them. 

Corporal Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana were killed in the line of duty. Hundreds gathered Thursday to memorialize them.  (City of El Monte)

The day began with a procession from the El Monte Police Department to the arena. At the memorial service, speakers remembered the men for their community service, bravery, sense of duty and devotion to their families.

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"Mike and Joseph were heroes. I’m not saying that because they died. I’m saying that because of how they lived," acting El Monte police Chief Ben Lowry said. "They were the best of us."

"An entire community mourns their loss," said Bianca Santana, Joseph Santana’s younger sister said. 

Both men were raised in El Monte, where mourners have left flowers and messages of thanks since the killings. They were the third and fourth officers from the department to be killed in the line of duty

They were dispatched to the motel over a report that a woman was possibly stabbed. They then confronted the suspected gunman, identified as Justin Flores, and a gunfire exchange occurred.

Flores killed the officers and then took his own life, authorities said. At the time of the killings, he was on probation for a gun charge. The shooting occurred a day after his probation officer requested he return to court. 

The deaths prompted severe backlash toward Los Angeles County District George Gascon, whose office gave Flores a plea deal on an unrelated charge. In his defense, Gascon said Flores, a known gang member, had no history of violence prior to the officers' deaths. 

"It was basically someone that had been drug addicted for many years. He had been arrested mostly for drug-related offenses," Gascón said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.