EL MONTE (CNS) – El Monte community leaders and law enforcement members were in mourning Wednesday for two El Monte Police Department officers who were shot and killed at a motel.
The man who killed the police officers was also shot and killed. The shooting occurred about 5:10 p.m. Tuesday at the Siesta Inn at 10327 Garvey Ave., near the San Bernardino (10) Freeway, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which was assisting El Monte police with the investigation.
Police recovered a firearm at the scene, said Deputy Brenda Serna of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.
Neither the suspect nor the officers were immediately identified, though acting El Monte Police Department Chief Ben Lowry said one officer was a 22-year veteran of the department, while the other had been with the department for less than a year.
Both officers were married and have children, according to El Monte officials.
Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Meyer said the officers were responding to the motel regarding reports of a stabbing and came under fire when they attempted to make contact with the suspect inside a room. The suspect then ran from the motel into a parking lot, where a second shooting occurred.
A witness, Arthur Kingsbury, told reporters he heard shots coming from the motel.
“When I saw the officers start to duck and cover, I knew they had been shot,” he said.
The officers were taken to County-USC Medical Center where they later died of their injuries, and the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Serna. Witnesses say a body could be seen covered by a sheet at the shooting scene.
“These heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Lowry said at a Tuesday night news conference. “Today they were murdered by a coward.”
El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona said during the news conference, “Heartbroken doesn’t begin to express the loss that we feel.”
“They were acting as the first line of defense for community members when they were essentially ambushed while trying to keep the family safe,” Ancona said.
El Monte city councilwoman Maria Morales posted on Facebook, “They went to work today to protect the people of our city and to answer the call for help. Sadly, their selfless acts of service led them to a place of evil and they were taken from us in a senseless act of cowardice.
“As a city official and, more importantly, as a mother, I can only imagine the pain and suffering their families are now enduring. I want them to know that I and the people of El Monte grieve with them during this dark moment.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that 20 investigators were searching for surveillance video and interviewing witnesses on Tuesday night, including a woman who was inside the motel room when the officers arrived, citing information from Meyer.
The woman, who police say is the suspect’s girlfriend, had not been stabbed, Meyer told The Times.
The city of El Monte, El Monte Police Department and El Monte Police Officers Association released a joint statement expressing their sympathy: “There are no words to describe our grief and devastation by this senseless act as we learned about the passing of two of our police officers. It weighs heavy on our hearts and we are sending our support to their families.
“We would also like to thank the El Monte community and our surrounding government agencies for the outpouring support we have received in the last few hours.”
Condolences poured in from police and fire agencies.
“My deepest condolences and prayers go out to the @elmontepolice and the loved ones of the two officers who were senselessly murdered this evening in the line of duty,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva tweeted.
A tweet from the Los Angeles County Fire Department reads, “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of two El Monte Police Dept officers. The LACoFD extends its condolences/prayers to everyone affected.
“Every day, we work side-by-side w/law enforcement, including our partners at El Monte Police Dept, who are like family to us.”
At around 11:10 p.m. Tuesday a police procession began from the El Monte Police Department to the hospital in order to escort the officers’ bodies to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.
The shooting came one day after a California Highway Patrol officer was shot multiple times during a traffic stop in Studio City.
Anyone with information about the shooting was encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anonymous calls can be made to 800- 222-TIPS.