Officials call for $50,000 reward in church graffiti shooting
Outraged over a shooting outside a Westlake church that left a young father dead, city officials said they will seek a $50,000 reward for information about the gunman and tagger whose graffiti sparked the slaying.
"This is as bad as it gets," said City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who represents the area and said his office had been fielding calls from outraged residents and merchants all day on Monday. "To kill a servant of God, to kill a young father, takes a special kind of cowardice."
The congregation of Iglesia Principe de Paz -- "Prince of Peace," an evangelical church made up largely of Guatemalan and Central American immigrants -- was singing and praying Sunday evening when a parishioner checking on the food being set up in the parking lot saw something suspicious.
A young woman was spraying graffiti on a church wall. When he asked her to stop, she knocked him to the ground. Just then, Andres Ordonez and another church member rushed outside to help.
As they arrived, a man emerged from a nearby car and opened fire, killing Ordonez and wounding the other parishioner.
Ordonez, 25, who attended church regularly, was a cook and the father of a 1-year-old boy. One friend said Ordonez was a deacon and had been going to the church since he was 10.
"If you needed help, he would help you," said the church's handyman, Martin Delgado. He described Ordonez as humble, hardworking and accommodating.
"He was like the right hand of the pastor," Delgado said. "From work to church, there was nothing else. To me, he was an extraordinary young man."
Residents said that gangs have long been a problem in the area and that recently gang members had threatened violence against residents who complain about or paint over graffiti.
LAPD detectives are searching for the gunman and tagger but believe some witnesses are afraid to come forward out of concern about gang reprisals. Several witnesses talked to The Times only on the condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety.
"They were going to church. They didn't do anything to deserve what happened," LAPD homicide Det. Jeff Cortina said. "We need the public's assistance. This wasn't gangster-on-gangster. It could be anybody. It could be anybody's kids."
Residents said the area has crime problems but that they can't believe the church was targeted. There have been five homicides reported this year by the LAPD in the Westlake District.
"No one thinks you're going to shoot people in front of a church," said one mother of four who asked that her name not be used. "You think someone getting robbed at this store or that store. But at a church? That's so disrespectful. And just because someone said, 'Stop writing on the wall.'"
-- Hector Becerra and Jessica Garrison
Photo: Iglesia Principe de Paz at Beverly Boulevard and Reno Street, where one church member was killed and another was wounded in a confrontation with a tagger. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times