Two officers were ambushed and fatally shot in El Monte, Calif., on Tuesday while responding to a possible stabbing involving a suspect that was “well known” to police.
According to ABC 7, the officers arrived at the Siesta Inn near Garvey and Central avenues around 5 p.m. after a woman – the suspect’s girlfriend – reported a possible stabbing. The officers approached the male suspect inside a motel room, at which point gunfire erupted.
The suspect fled to the parking lot where more gunfire rang out. Authorities said the suspect was shot and died at the scene. Officials said the 35-year-old suspect was “well known” to El Monte police, and had over a dozen criminal convictions dating as far back as 2008, NBC Los Angeles reported.
The two officers involved in the shooting were rushed to LAC-USC Medical Center where they later died.
“They were acting as a first line of defense for our community members when they were essentially ambushed while trying to keep a family safe,” said El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona told reporters Tuesday night.
“Heartbroken doesn’t begin to express the loss we feel,” she added, as reported by KNBC.
The woman who reported the stabbing was not injured. She is being interviewed by detectives, the outlet reported.
The officers’ and suspect’s identities have not been released. Authorities said one of the officers has been on the force for more than 20 years and the second had been on the job for less than one year.
El Monte interim Police Chief Ben Lowry said the officers who died in the shooting are heroes.
“These two men were loved,” he said. “They were good men. They paid the ultimate sacrifice, serving their community trying to help somebody. Today, they were murdered by a coward and we are grieving and that hurts.”
Just after 11 p.m., the fallen officers’ bodies were escorted from the hospital to the L.A. County Coroner’s office by their fellow officers at the El Monte Police Department.
“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,” the city of El Monte, El Monte Police Department and El Monte Police Officers Association said in a joint statement.