The Killing of Andres Ordonez
A True Story: RIP
On Sunday, November 4, 2012, on a Lord’s Day, a church member named Andres Ordonez was shot and killed outside his church while attempting to stop a gang member from tagging graffiti on the east side of the building. He stepped out in the waning light, approached the individual wearing baggy clothes, and asked her to stop. The juvenile delinquent refused. She continued to spray paint the yellow stucco wall. Parked next to the curb, a car idled in wait—the getaway vehicle.
A second church member came out to investigate, an older gentlemen. From seemingly nowhere, a second accomplice ambushed both God fearing member of Principe de Paz church and began spraying. Three to four shots were fired, hitting them both. Ordonez stumbled back inside the gated church walls and lay in a pool of his own blood. The wound was fatal; one of the bullets tore through his heart. He was dead upon arrival.
The man was only twenty-five years old and left a wife and a child—a young boy just shy of two years. She was also three months pregnant with their second child. My mother told me the last voice message she received from Ordonez was him saying, “If you believe in God, you are a Christian. If you don’t believe in God, you are not a Christian.” Few weeks later, he was with God. You see, my mother used to own the church building, before she liquidated it and sold it off to another owner, and he leased it to a pastor who converted to a church. It wasn’t a church before; it was a liquor store. During that time, for twenty years, we never had a single incident of someone being gunned down in the premise.
Three years ago—before the Hispanic church took over—my mother hired a famous graffiti artist to illustrate a graphic design on the side of the east wall to prevent taggers from marking their “territory.” He didn’t spray something that looked like a stencil drawing out of a tattoo parlor—he sprayed a masterpiece. The above picture you see is not painting on a canvas, but on the yellow stucco wall of the east side of our building. Half of it is truncated. What’s not seen are the beginnings of the word, a pirate ship, more futuristic city life, and a skull. The pyramid is the same pyramid drawn in the back of the dollar bill, but the all Seeing Eye is used telepathically by a figure who crushes the minions of robots. Of course, that’s symbolism right there. The robots are in allegiance to the government that enslaves them. The figure is Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther, yourself, whatever metaphorical substitute which denotes freedom. It was incredible to see it up-close, the intricate details and splashes of vivid colors harmonizing to create a backdrop of an ethereal world. People from all walks of life came to observe, to study and pore over this graffiti art and take professional snapshots. The photo you see here was taken by a photographer who felt compelled to pay money so he could record the image behind his lens. My mother allowed him to without charging a dime. For her gracious charity, he handed the picture over to her as a thank you memorandum.
That same graffiti art was painted over with a yellow shade a couple of weeks after the church moved in. Imagine the hostility and outrage voiced throughout out the neighborhood block. It reverberated loud and clear. Random strangers would walk up to my mother ask why—why?—who would erase such paintings? Why would they do that? My mother could offer only a helpless shrug and tell them; it was under the church’s direction that the artwork was removed, because they considered it as the devil’s work.
Now, move forward two years later, and I’m standing in front of Andres Ordonez coffin. He’s too young to die, I think. His life cut short at the peak of his prime. His face is heavily brushed with make-up and he wears a cap (his lucky one) hiding his brows; and he appears as though he’s sleeping. A sleep he will never wake up from. Two safeguards stand beside the casket, motionless, on either side. Fifteen minutes earlier, Ordonez’s sister had come in late for the funeral service and began wailing for her brother, hugging her mother and father, and all the optimistic tone of “he’s not dead, but living in Christ!” seem to crash before them, and the tears flowed freely.
I watch Andres Ordonez ashy grey face, and my mother steps up next to me to peek over the lid that’s been propped open. Peoples’ sorrows wash over me, as I try to grasp the gravity of someone I know personally snuffed out, for no reason at all. He’s gone, he’s no more. He’s in heaven now, if there is such a thing. “The last time I spoke with him was a day before he died,” mother says, sniffling, wiping the tears away. “He showed me his son in his arms. Raised him up for me. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
When we leave early (the service finished at six am in the morning) my mother tells me if the church hadn’t painted over that graffiti art, none of this would’ve happened. The church wouldn’t have to cover the gang affiliated scribbles with fresh slater of paint every time new ones cropped up. They wouldn’t have to confront the young teenager defacing the property, and Andres didn’t have to approach her and someone in the vehicle didn't have to spring out and start shooting. No body would’ve died.
My father says it was fate it did happen, as he drives. That was his destiny. If it wasn’t, God would’ve prevented it. Even so, twenty five is way too young to die. A mother and father should never have to bury their own children.
I will always remember Andres Ordonez close yet far away, his passion, his fervor and zeal for scriptures and spreading of the gospel. He is in a better place now. God rest your soul.