Nonprofit offers to fully pay mortgages of 2 El Monte police officers killed on duty

The group does this for families of law enforcement officers and firefighters who are killed on duty and have young children.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A New York-based nonprofit announced it will pay the mortgages of the two El Monte police officers who were killed in the line of duty last week.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation said it will pay the mortgages - in full - of Officer Joseph Santana and his partner Corporal Michael Paredes.

The nonprofit's Fallen First Responder Home Program pays off the mortgages for the families of law enforcement officers and firefighters who are killed in the line of duty and have young children.

"We come together as a nation to honor the service and sacrifice of Officer Santana and Corporal Paredes," said CEO of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation Frank Siller in a statement released this week. "These two men were answering a call for help when they were gunned down by a criminal out on parole, a criminal who should have been in custody but was set loose to terrorize this city. This senseless and tragic loss has torn apart two families and the entire El Monte community and it could have been avoided."

Santana and Paredes were killed during a gunfight at the Siesta Inn in El Monte. Authorities said the officers confronted a suspect, who was identified as Justin Flores, in a room at the motel, leading to gunfire.

Both officers were ultimately shot to death and Flores died at the scene of a self-inflicted gunshot, according to authorities.

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, who has come under fire over the disposition of a 2021 criminal case against Flores, defended his office's handling of the matter Tuesday, saying a plea agreement that allowed Flores to avoid jail time was "appropriate under the circumstances.''

"I know that this is frustrating to hear, and it may not help heal the wounds for some, but we do not serve our community when we try to pretend that we can predict 100% of the time when these cases are going to occur," said Gascón.

Both officers lived in Upland but were raised in El Monte, and both were married fathers with children.

Paredes began as an EMPD cadet and was sworn in as a full-time police officer in July 2000, city officials said. He is survived by his wife of 18 years, a 16-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son.

Santana spent six years working for the city's Public Works Department, then worked for three years as a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy. He joined the El Monte Police Department last year. He is survived by his wife of seven years, a 9-year-old daughter and 2-year-old twin boys.

City News Service, Inc. contributed to this report.

The video above is from a previous report.

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