Two El Monte police officers were shot and killed Tuesday evening while responding to a possible stabbing at a motel, leaving many in this suburb east of Los Angeles stunned.
El Monte officials said the officers were immediately targeted by gunfire upon responding to the Siesta Inn near Central and Garvey avenues.
A law enforcement source said the officers had responded to a radio call at the hotel, got into a confrontation and were shot at close range.
Another source told The Times that the suspect shot through the door after the officers knocked.
Both officers were taken to L.A. County-USC Medical Center, El Monte officials said. Colleagues carried them to police cruisers and drove them to the hospital, which is renowned for treating gunshot wounds, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department source.
Few other details were immediately released, but El Monte officials described the shooting as a “senseless act.”
“There are no words to describe our grief and devastation,” the city said in a statement. “It weighs heavy on our hearts and we are sending our support to their families.”
El Monte resident Mayra Lomeli, 49, said she heard three shots, causing her to leap under a table at El Perico Market, a block away from the Siesta Inn.
Lomeli, a customer of El Perico, said she overrode her fear and ran to close the entrance door, fearing a gunman would try to burst through.
“I didn’t know what was going on, but I know that sometimes desperate people will run into nearby buildings looking to escape,” she said.
Lomeli said it was a little past 4:30 p.m. when she heard gunshots. She was having an early dinner with a friend.
That friend, she said, was denied access to her home around the corner from the shooting. Lomeli, who lives three blocks away, returned to her home.
“Right after the shooting, the police were closing access to all local residents, even some of the store owners couldn’t get back to their business,” she said.
The Santa Anita Avenue exit of the eastbound 10 Freeway was blocked by cones, while Garvey Avenue was closed between Doreen Avenue and Merced Avenue.
“That hotel is no good,” Lomeli said. “There’s always problems there. If it’s not drugs, then it’s prostitution.”
In a statement shortly before 8 p.m., Sheriff’s Department officials said a male adult was pronounced dead at the scene. A spokesperson for the department, which is leading the investigation, clarified that the person was the shooting suspect.
Three officers opened fire during the encounter, a source in the department told The Times.
The shooting was reported around 4:47 p.m., according to the Sheriff’s Department statement.
“On behalf of everyone in the district attorney’s office, I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the two El Monte police officers who were killed on duty today,” L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said Tuesday night. “We stand with you at this time of great loss.”
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s Fatalities Report, there were 62 firearms-related officer deaths in 2021, a 38% increase over the 45 officers killed in similar incidents in 2020.
Of the 62 firearms fatalities last year, 19 officers were ambushed, eight were investigating suspicious activities or persons, and seven were attempting an arrest.
Anyone with information about the El Monte shooting is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500.
Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.