The two slain Los Angeles-area police officers "ambushed" by a suspect in a hotel room Tuesday have still not been identified, and authorities haven’t provided details about the so-called "coward" suspect also killed.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, El Monte Police Department officials have only disclosed that one of the fallen was a veteran police officer with at least 22 years on the job, while the other was a new officer with less than one year working on the force.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday evening, El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona described how the two officers were "essentially ambushed while trying to keep a family safe," without elaborating.
"Heartbroken doesn’t begin to express the loss that we feel with the news that two of our El Monte police officers were shot today in the line of duty. As our officers do on a daily basis, they were acting as the first line of defense for our community members when they were essentially ambushed while trying to keep a family safe," Ancona said. "These two officers were like family in our community with deep ties to our neighborhoods."
El Monte Interim Chief Ben Lowry described the yet to be identified deceased suspect as a "coward."
"The men and women of the El Monte Police Department, as well as the community of El Monte is grieving. I’ve heard that the only way to take the sting out of death is to take the love out of life and believe me they were loved," Lowry said. "These two men were loved. They were good men. They paid the ultimate sacrifice serving their community trying to help somebody."
"They do what hundreds of thousands of men and women do everyday across the United States – get up with an oath to protect people and serve them," he added. "These two heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice. They were murdered by a coward. We are grieving, and it hurts."
One of the officers killed was raised in El Monte, went through the local schools and was excited to be a part of the community’s police department where he could protect and serve family and friends, Ancona said. The other fallen officer was a new officer patrolling El Monte streets, "excited to be on the force ensuring the community members he had met along the way were protected," the mayor added.
"These men were dedicated to their careers and, even more so, as sons, husbands and fathers," she said.
Noting how the investigation is very preliminary, Los Angeles Sheriff Department Homicide Bureau Capt. Andrew Meyer recounted how the two El Monte police officers responded to a call for service to a local motel regarding a possible stabbing victim.
He said officers arrived at the scene, where they confronted the suspect and an officer involved shooting occurred. The suspect fled the hotel room into the parking lot, and a second officer involved shooting occurred, Meyer added.
Two officers from the El Monte Police Department and a suspect were struck by gunfire. The two officers were transported to LAC+USC Medical Center, where they succumbed to their injuries. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
Meyer said at least 20 investigators were at the scene Tuesday night speaking to witnesses, canvassing the area and looking for any video. A gun was recovered at the scene near the suspect.
The woman inside the hotel room with the suspect, believed to be his girlfriend, was not stabbed, Meyer said. No one has been placed under arrest as of the time of the press conference.
In a nod to her fellow law enforcement officers on the West Coast, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell tweeted that "NYPD stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners in the @ElmontePolice Department as we all mourn the loss of their two officers who were killed in the line of duty."
"Though their pain is unimaginable, the support from across the country is unwavering," she wrote.
Law enforcement vehicles lined the streets of El Monte Tuesday night for a procession of the fallen officers’ bodies after their American flag draped caskets were carried from the hospital. KTLA reported that flowers and candles were being placed outside the department Wednesday as part of a growing memorial.