Church deacon killed over graffiti had child on the way
The 25-year-old deacon at Iglesia Principe de Paz, a small evangelical church on Beverly Boulevard, had been a police Explorer for the Los Angeles Police Department, said his father-in-law Cirilo Mendez. He described Ordonez 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, who was capering 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, after interrupting a woman vandalizing the wall of the church. 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.
“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 stepped outside from 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 the female tagger to stop scrawling her gang’s name on the church wall. She shoved him, causing him to stumble. Ordonez and another parishioner were shot when they went to help.
Ana Mendez said she can’t stop thinking about the child who would never meet her father.
“I’m waiting for something beautiful my husband left me,” she said.
As for Nehemias Andres, the son left bereft of his father by a gunman, Mendez said he was far too young to understand what had happened to him.
“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 as a small boy attending church with his parents. Unlike the Mendez family, he said, Ordonez was timid and quiet. But once he started dating his daughter, he said, 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 was also 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. While justice was on his mind, revenge for the gunman who 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.”
-- Hector Becerra
Photo: Left to right: Cirilo Mendez, 45, Nehemias Andres Ordonez, 1, his mother Ana Mendez, 20, and grandmother Ana Mendez, 38, and LAPD Capt. Steven Ruiz attend a news conference at LAPD's Rampart Station on Thursday. Andres Ordonez, the husband of Ana and father of Nehemias, was shot and killed Sunday evening outside Iglesia Principe de Paz. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times