El Monte is sad.
Sudden, Violent Loss of Two Respected Public Servants, Police Cpl. Michael Domingo Paredes, 42, and Officer Joseph Anthony Santana, 31, both killed during a confrontation with an armed suspect Tuesday evening, shook the community, with some residents fearing that their deaths represented a bigger problem in the United States. does.
Virginia Rickendez, a longtime El Monte resident and mother of a firefighter, was among hundreds of people who gathered outside the city’s police department on Wednesday to pay respects to fallen soldiers.
“It’s a shock and it’s heartbreaking,” said Rikendez through choked tears. “I cannot imagine a family going through such darkness. I pray for them every day.”
She stood in front of a bronze bald eagle statue inscribed with the phrase “In memory of those who may live in peace in the world”, adorned with messages of comfort and sympathy by gathering mourners throughout the day. was.
Ricendez said the killings of Paredes and Santana symbolize the damage caused by loose gun control policies across the country. She mentioned the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas – which killed 19 elementary school children and two teachers – combined with the El Monte shooting, has terrified her.
“It’s a difficult time, my heart is hurting,” said Rickendez. “You take a child to school hoping for a safe environment. They had hopes and dreams.”
She also spoke about the constant fear she had for her son – knowing that the same thing could happen to him at any time.
“They put their lives on the line and they have families to go home,” said Ricendez. “As a mom it’s hard to receive sad news — no matter what department they’re in.”
On Tuesday, just hours after news of the authorities’ death emerged, members of the community started small at the memorial site. By noon the next day, as visitors continued to come to pay their respects, the monument had nearly tripled in size.
Some cried, while others stood in a solitary moment of gloom and silence.
A few hundred feet away, some people placed candles and roses in front of the Lady Liberty statue of El Monte. Visible in the background: a mural in memory of four other El Monte officers killed in the line of duty during 1974-2005.
The spirit of the day – of extreme grief – was tempered by the deep concern of some residents that they would know the officers who had been killed. The El Monte Police Department did not identify the couple until late afternoon.
Earlier in the day, El Monte resident Manuel Martínez, who has close ties to the community and the police department, was watching from afar on the outskirts of the monument.
He paused on the department’s driveway, pacing nervously and keeping an eye out for any El Monte police vehicles turning into the parking lot. Martinez feared that two of his family members who serve in the department had been killed, and hoped to contact any officers who might be able to shed some light on the situation.
“I know people who work here,” Martinez said. “It breaks my heart, it really does.”
In the middle of the conversation, Martinez flagged off the El Monte police car as it made its way into the parking lot. Officials confirmed that his relatives were not hurt, Martinez said – a much-needed relief from the anxiety that had brought him there.
But despite confirming that his relatives are safe, Martinez said he is still in pain. He said that throughout his time as a resident, he had never seen anything like what he saw on a Tuesday in El Monte.
“This should never have happened – not two officers,” he said. “It’s a real blow to the community.”
Officers from several LA County police departments visited the memorial site to express their support and condolences, including the nearby South Gate Police Department.
“We are here to show our support for the San Gabriel Valley, the El Monte Police Department and this community of victims,” said South Gate Police Chief Darren Arkawa. “It’s just a tragedy.”
El Monte’s police department and city staff, LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis, the Los Angeles Metro, East LA County Sheriff’s Department, and Oxnard PD were some of the many other entities that left mementos in honor of the two officers.
Arakawa said the loss of two officers at once – the kind where El Monte officers were killed – is unusual, and takes a significant toll on both the department and the community.
“There’s a great understanding of how close people are in an organization, so losing someone is like losing an extended family member,” Arakawa said.
It is important, Arakawa said, to remember the sacrifices the two officers made in the line of duty.
“Never take lightly what police officers do every day – there’s no guarantee anyone will go home.”
Arakawa said that in El Monte, community ties with the police department are strong – and acknowledges that the community is also suffering from recent losses.
“We just want to pray for the families,” Arakawa said, “and help them get through some of the most difficult days to come.”
For his part, Rickendez offered his deepest condolences to the families of the victims. Despite the gloom, she said, the parade and the community that came together to honor and mourn Santana provided some comfort.
“It’s beautiful that all the different communities are coming together,” Rickendez said. “You always hope for the best.”