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Slain church deacon wanted to become a citizen and police officer

Andres Ordonez was shot to death when he tried to stop vandalism at his church during a service. He leaves a pregnant widow and a 1-year-old son.

November 09, 2012|By Hector Becerra, Los Angeles Times
  • The family of slain Andres Ordonez -- left to right, his father-in-law Cirilo Mendez, his son Nehemias Andres Ordonez, his wife Ana Mendez and the boy's grandmother, Ana Mendez -- attend a news conference at LAPD's Rampart Station. At right is LAPD Capt. Steven Ruiz.
The family of slain Andres Ordonez -- left to right, his father-in-law Cirilo… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

Brought by his parents from Guatemala as a small boy, Andres Ordonez's dream was to get his legal papers squared away, become the American he always felt he was and then a police officer.

The 25-year-old deacon at Iglesia Principe de Paz, a small evangelical church on Beverly Boulevard, had been a police Explorer, said his father-in-law Cirilo Mendez, who described him as a sweet-natured, shy kid who became a serious-minded, devout young man. Ordonez was a restaurant cook, but with a 1-year-old son and his wife, Ana, 20, three months pregnant, he wanted to secure their future.

"He wanted to make sure his friend there wouldn't lack for anything," Mendez, 45, said, motioning to his grandson as the boy capered about the lobby of the LAPD's Rampart Station. "He wanted to be a cop since he was a boy. He wanted to serve the community."

On Thursday, Mendez, his wife and their daughter Ana appealed for the public's help in finding the killer of Ordonez, who was shot Sunday along with another parishioner.

"He has been in this country since he was just a boy. From the bottom of his heart, he was American," Mendez said. "He felt American. His wife was an American citizen. The life he was going to make was going to be made here."

Ordonez's wife said she was helping to prepare food after the Sunday evening service when her husband left the singing and praying in the church to check on her.

"I wasn't feeling really well that day, so he just went outside and asked me how I was," she said. "Then he heard some noises."

Just around the corner, on Reno Street, another parishioner was asking a female tagger to stop scrawling her gang's name on the church wall. She shoved him, causing him to stumble. Ordonez and another parishioner went to help. A gang member stepped out of a car and fired at the two men, mortally wounding Ordonez in the parking lot as churchgoers knelt or stood around him, praying.

Ana Mendez said she can't stop thinking about her child who will never meet her father.

"I'm waiting for something beautiful my husband left me," she said.

As for Nehemias Andres, the son left without a father, Mendez said he was far too young to understand what had happened.

"He asked for his dad just yesterday," she said. "I just try to explain to him that he's up in heaven. I just point up there and the only thing he does is look and say to his daddy, 'Bye, bye.' "

Before he died, Andres Ordonez had planned a "big fiesta" for his son, who in two months will turn 2. Just before the family spoke to the media, the boy rolled a black-and-white toy police car on the smooth floor of the LAPD station.

Cirilo Mendez, an immigrant from the Mexican state of Veracruz, said he remembered his son-in-law attending church with his parents as a small boy. Ordonez was timid and quiet, he said, but once he started dating his daughter, a more gregarious side of him would sometimes peek out. He loved soccer, following Real Madrid and Barcelona, and even rooting for the Mexican national team with his wife's family. Whatever made them happy made him happy, his father-in-law said.

"He started getting used to us and he started joking with more liberty," Mendez said. "With me, he was always very respectful. Once he got in with my family, he wasn't just another young man. He was my son."

Pastor Rodulfo Hernandez, 58, said the young deacon had been his right hand. But he also was the husband his granddaughter, Ana Mendez, loved. Before services, he would sit or stand by the door and greet fellow parishioners, offering them a blessing.

"He was a young man who always motivated the rest. He had a consoling word for anyone who needed it," Hernandez said. "He was a young man who was very active in the Lord's work."

On Sunday, Hernandez said he would have a message for his flock. Though justice was on his mind, revenge for the gunman that took Ordonez's life wasn't, and it shouldn't be on theirs, either.

"The message will be one of love and peace," he said. "Our faith in God continues. As Christians, we're taught not to hold rancor and hate in our heart, but on the contrary, to love our enemies instead of hate them…. One day, maybe the people who did this will recognize God, and to us, it would be a cause of tremendous joy."

People who want to help the family pay for the funeral can donate to the Andres Ordonez Family Assistance fund at Bank of America.

hector.becerra@latimes.com

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