Two police officers and a suspect were killed in a gunfight that erupted at a motel near Los Angeles while law enforcement were responding to a possible stabbing, authorities said.

The two officers identified as a 22-year veteran and a rookie died after being transported to a local hospital while the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, Capt. Andrew Meyer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said during a press briefing.

Authorities said in a statement that the shooting occurred before 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Siesta Inn near the 10300 block of Garvey Avenue in El Monte, a Los Angeles suburb.

Meyer told reporters the shooting erupted in a motel room where the two officers “confronted the suspect” while responding to a call concerning a stabbing. The suspect then fled into the parking where a second shooting occurred, he said, adding all three were struck by gunfire.

The cause of the shooting was not entirely clear.

Meyer said a woman at the scene who was believed to have been the suspect’s girlfriend had not suffered from a stabbing.

El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona told reporters that the officers were “essentially ambushed while trying to keep a family safe.” However, Meyer said the investigation was preliminary and that it was “it was too early to speculate or talk about that.”

At least 20 investigators were interviewing witnesses, including the woman, and were searching for video of the incident, he said, adding a firearm had been recovered near they body of the suspect.

El Monte interim police chief Ben Lowry described the slain officers as “good men” who were loved.

“These two heroes paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said. “Today, they were murdered by a coward, and we are grieving.”

“It hurts,” he said.

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