EDITOR'S NOTE: This story discusses suicide. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts you can call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HELLO to 741741
LOS ANGELES — Her family home is now a memorial, as Hilda Pedroza adjusts the fabric flowers overhanging the exact spot her brother was shot dead by East Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies in March.
“There’s just no words for it,” said Pedroza, whose pain is tinged with regret that she had called the East LA Sheriff’s Station for help as she sat in the car with her suicidal brother, David Ordaz, Jr.
What You Need To Know
- Hilda Pedrosa called the East LA Sheriff's Station March 14 for help coaxing her suicidal brother to put down his weapon and get help
- Deputies eventually opened fire, killing David Ordaz, Jr.
- In July, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he had "grave concerns" regarding the shooting
- Six months after the incident, the district attorney has yet to receive the case from the sheriff's department
Pedroza had first tried driving Ordaz to the hospital, but after he refused to get out of the car, they returned home to East LA.
“He’s also talked about suicide by cop, so I am afraid for that,” Pedroza calmly told the dispatcher in a portion of the call released by the department in July, adding that her brother was armed with a kitchen knife but only threatening himself.
“Yes, I understand, and it’s good that you guys called and you are trying to help him out,” the dispatcher assured her before sending several deputies to the scene.
Pedroza hoped deputies would arrive and talk to her brother, who was under the influence of methamphetamine. She says in a similar instance 10 years prior, deputies were able to de-escalate the situation and get Ordaz to a hospital.
But this time, the 34-year-old father of three ended up shot dead.
When deputies arrived outside the Pedroza family home on March 14, they immediately pointed their guns and ordered Pedroza and Ordaz out of the car where they had been sitting.
“I believe I froze for a bit,” Pedroza said. “I looked back at (the deputies) and all I saw were guns pointed at us. I didn’t at that moment. I was scared for my life when I saw those guns, and now I think about it, how he must have felt seeing all that.”
Former LAPD detective and Use of Force expert Timothy Williams, Jr. said that was the first mistake made by deputies. Williams noted that the first responders should have kept talking to Pedrosa and Ordaz on the phone while they waited for a mental evaluation team ot arrive.
“Time was on their side,” Williams said. “The sister was not an imminent threat. She wanted her brother to be taken care of.”
As Ordaz held the knife, he urged the deputies to open fire. Eventually, a deputy first fired a stun bag, and as Ordaz lurched forward toward the ground, more deputies fired using live rounds. They continued to shoot even as Ordaz was on the ground.
“I look at that as 'contagious fire,'" Williams said. "One person fires, everybody fires. It was, in my opinion, excessive force, force that should not and need not have happened.”
Pedroza watched the whole scene unfold from her front lawn and can be heart screaming in the body camera video.
“After I shout, 'Stop, stop,' boom. Execution shot,” she said.
In July, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a statement, “I want to clearly state I have grave concerns regarding this deputy involved shooting” and vowed the investigation would be submitted to the LA District Attorney to determine whether it was legal.
But six months after the incident, while one deputy has reportedly been relieved of duty, the DA has yet to receive the case from the LASD.
Following the shooting, LASD told Spectrum News 1 that the department was working on a plan to make changes at the station in East LA to “address ongoing community concerns and strengthen public trust.”
East LA has faced allegations it harbors a secret deputy gang called the “Banditos” who share hidden matching tattoos. Captain Rick Mejia said they have addressed those concerns.
“I can assure you that there (are) no Bandito-alleged deputies working patrol in East LA right now,” Mejia said.
While none of the deputies in the Ordaz incident have been linked to the Banditos in previous litigation, Pedroza noted that the scandal undermines the internal investigation into her brother’s death.
“It’s true. I’m scared. I don’t want to deal with them.”
Pedroza's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county. Like other families who’ve lost loved ones in East LA, the Ordaz family is now fighting for systemic change in the sheriff’s department and justice for the one they’ve lost.