Two El Monte Police officers were killed Tuesday in a shootout while investigating a domestic violence call at a motel, and the gunman who opened fire on the officers died at the scene, authorities said.
The officers, a 22-year veteran and a rookie with less than a year on the force, were not immediately identified.
El Monte interim Police Chief Ben Lowry called the officers heroes.
"These two men were loved," Lowry said at a Tuesday night news conference. "They were good men. They paid the ultimate sacrifice serving their community, trying to help somebody."
According to City officials and several law enforcement sources, the two officers responded to a report of a possible stabbing at the Siesta Inn motel on Garvey Avenue just before 5:00 p.m.
The officers "confronted the suspect" and a shootout erupted inside a motel room, Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide Capt. Andrew Meyer said. The gunman fled the motel room into the parking lot where more gunfire was exchanged.
Meyer said he didn't know whether the officers were shot inside the motel or outside. The two wounded officers were taken to LA County USC Medical Center where they died from their injuries. The alleged gunman was shot and died at the scene.
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El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona said the officers died “while trying to keep a family safe.”
"They were acting as a first line of defense for our community members when they were essentially ambushed," Ancona said at a news conference outside the hospital Tuesday night.
"Heartbroken doesn't begin to express the loss that we feel," she said.
Ancona said one of the two officers grew up in El Monte, went to the city's schools, and joined the police department to serve his community.
Law enforcement sources described the suspect who attacked the officers as a 35-year-old man who was "well known" to El Monte police, with more than a dozen criminal convictions that date back to 2008.
The man's name has not yet been publicly released.
"The City of El Monte is saddened and shocked by tonight's tragic shooting that killed two of our own police officers," a city spokesperson said in a statement posted online Tuesday evening. "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."
A number of other law enforcement agencies in LA County sent officers to El Monte to assist with regular patrol duties in order to allow El Monte officers time to grieve, officials told NBCLA.
The investigation into the officers' murder and the death of the alleged attacker was turned over to the LA County Sheriff's Department Homicide Bureau, and the ATF said agents were already on scene and assisting.
The officers were killed a day after a CHP officer was shot during a traffic stop in Studio City. That CHP officer survived and the alleged shooter was arrested Tuesday morning in Van Nuys.