It was a busy Saturday for Jordan and Andre Anchondo. They had just dropped their oldest daughter off at cheerleading practice when they pulled into the Walmart parking lot, packed with hundreds of back-to-school shoppers like them. The couple grabbed their 2-month-old baby and headed inside.
Their daughter was having a birthday party, turning 6, so they also needed to buy party decorations. In just a few hours, family and friends would be coming over to the couple’s new home for the first time, Andre’s brother, Tito Anchondo, told The Washington Post.
But then came the gunfire.
Afterward, there was silence from Jordan and Andre, who weren’t picking up their phones.
Finally, hours later, came the phone call that Tito Anchondo dreaded the most: from authorities, asking him to come to the hospital.
Jordan, 25, and Andre, 24, were among 21 victims killed in Saturday’s mass shooting at a Walmart and shopping center in El Paso, leaving their infant son without parents as they died protecting him, their family told The Post. Jordan’s death was confirmed Saturday. Family members confirmed Andre’s death to The Post late Sunday night, after waiting more than 24 hours to find out what happened to him. (El Paso police said the latest victim died in a hospital early Monday, raising the death toll to 21.)
Tito and other family members said they believe Andre died trying to shield his wife and son from the gunfire.
Jordan’s sister, Leta Jamrowski, told the Associated Press that based on the baby’s injuries, Jordan died shielding their baby.
“He pretty much lived because she gave her life,” Jamrowski, 19, told the AP.
Jordan was holding him in her arms when she died, Jamrowski said. She fell on him as she collapsed onto the floor, breaking some of his bones but keeping him alive, her sister said.
Jordan’s aunt, Elizabeth Terry, told CNN that when the baby was “pulled from under her body,” his mother’s blood was still on him. The baby, named Paul, suffered only broken fingers, she said, and is now at home recovering.
At the time they died, the young couple had plenty to look forward to, their daughter’s birthday party included.
Days before the shooting, Jordan and Andre had just celebrated their first wedding anniversary, Tito said. In the past year, the newlyweds welcomed their new son into the world, and Andre had quit the family auto-repair business to start one of his own, Andre House of Granite and Stone. He had built the family’s house himself, Tito said.
After he’d been stuck in a rut, finally everything seemed to be looking up for his brother, which Tito attributed to his love for Jordan. She was a stay-at-home mom, caring for the infant, her 1-year-old daughter and soon-to-be 6-year-old. Jordan’s daughters were from earlier relationships, Tito said.
“She was his support system,” Tito said. “When he met Jordan, it gave him more reason to get on track with his life. He got his life in order.”
The mass shooting in El Paso was one of two in the United States in 13 hours this weekend, as another gunman opened fire in Dayton, Ohio, and killed nine, including his sister, in a 30-second rampage in a popular entertainment district about 1 a.m. Sunday. The accused perpetrator of the Dayton shooting, Connor Betts, 24, was fatally shot by authorities. The accused El Paso gunman, Patrick Crusius, 21, was arrested and taken into custody and is expected to face the death penalty if convicted in state court. Federal prosecutors are also weighing hate-crime charges.
John F. Bash, U.S. attorney in the Western District of Texas, said the case is being treated as domestic terrorism. A manifesto that authorities believe Crusius posted on the Internet forum 8chan includes attacks on Latino immigrants and rants about a “Hispanic invasion.”
“This Anglo man came here to kill Hispanics,” El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles wrote in a statement. “I’m outraged and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged. In this day and age, with all the serious issues we face, we are still confronted with people who will kill another for the sole reason of the color of their skin.”
The Anchondo and Jamrowski families had spent all day Saturday mourning Jordan but hoping that the couple’s children would still have Andre. But when they arrived at the hospital to identify Jordan’s body, Tito said, Andre was nowhere to be found. Hours and hours went by, and still they didn’t hear from him.
Finally, on Sunday evening, Tito learned what he was dreading most again.
Monique Terry, Jordan’s 21-year-old cousin, told the Guardian that the couple’s children, namely their oldest daughter awaiting her sixth birthday party, didn’t understand.