I don’t live in Hawaiian Gardens. It’s is an ugly, corrupt and gang ridden cesspool of a city that borders the city of my youth, Lakewood, Ca. Hawaiian Gardens is no garden. There is nothing of beauty there, except for some of the good people I know who call it home. I don’t drive through the city unless I must. I don’t shop there. I don’t eat there. I do my best to avoid it as it holds many bad memories for me. One of the worst in recent memory was the 2005 murder of Los Angeles Sherriff’s Deputy Jerry Ortiz.
Deputy Jerry Ortiz was shot and killed after knocking on a door during an investigation.
Deputy Ortiz had gone to an apartment complex in the city of Hawaiian Gardens to question a woman about a shooting that had taken place the previous day. As he spoke to the woman at the door of the apartment, the suspect in the previous day's shooting appeared and shot him in the head. The man then fled into an apartment three doors away. Deputies found him hiding in a bathtub three hours later.
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I remember that horrible day. The murder was senseless. Ortiz died trying to protect the city from a parasite. He gave his life so that Hawaiian Garden residents could have some small measure of peace and safety. A '”grateful” city remembers him each year. I say grateful because of the animus of Christian pastor and Hawaiian Gardens City Councilman Barry Bruce.
“I have a real problem that every year we memorialize Jerry Ortiz death, again and again and again and again with many Sheriff’s from all over coming (to Hawaiian Gardens), and even helicopters coming and doing a dip over the top of the house where he was killed years ago,” Bruce said.
“As far as I know, and maybe you guys can correct me, I think that is unprecedented in cities as a whole. I don’t understand why this city, any why you Mr. Mayor (Gomez) continue to, but I understand your heartfelt loss for a mother and the family for their loss, but we are a city and the purpose of a city council is to make sure that we move forward and goes on, and that the community heals, and not that we recognize our city every year as being a cop killer city.”
Barry Bruce is the founder and pastor of Way Out Ministries. A Christian mission and School located in a strip mall in Hawaiian Gardens. Listing to its promotional video leads one to think that Bruce is trying to help. Listening to his words and witnessing his actions leads one to think otherwise.
What Barry Bruce does not understand is that the City of Hawaiian Gardens is at least partially responsibly for the senseless death of Ortiz. Years of inaction and indifference led to the climate of fear that grips the city to this day, plus, the gang problem has been a real problem issue since the 70s with virtually no real action by the city. Memorializing Ortiz each year is one way for the city to redeem itself. Another path for the city is to clean its act up. Just ask the 150+ gang members arrested and imprisoned since the murder of Ortiz. The city is safer. African American residents have less to fear from Hispanic gang members, but there is still fear.
Pastor Bruce is controversial. He has an agenda and pushes it hard. He’s been censured for his tactics, and called out for his political fundraising.
Los Cerritos Community News is asking the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board to launch a formal investigation into the activities of The Way Out Ministries of Hawaiian Gardens for possible violations of its 501(c) (3) non-profit status after the controversial church staged a profanity laced political fundraiser/comedy night on behalf of two city council candidates on church property.
I don’t know Pastor Bruce. I’ll reach out to him via an invitation to coffee or a round of disc golf. I’d love to hear his take on the city of Hawaiian Gardens. I’m not sure if he’s a bad actor or a good one. I’m not sure if he is corrupt or if he is fighting corruption. I can tell you this much, his tactics are questionable and decidedly not what one would expect from a pastor or a sophisticated politician. Mixing politics and religion is seldom done well. Pastor Bruce is a good example of political failure. Remember, we are judged by what we accomplish, not by the noise we make.
I’m not sure if Pastor Bruce is blind to the collective need to remember our fallen heroes or simply not in tune with his city’s citizens, fireman and law enforcement. My sense is that he is actually doing some good for the community, but does he not realize that “being controversial” over issues like this does not engender love nor heal wounds.
Fun times. For the record… I know the child of a man senselessly murdered in Hawaiian Gardens in the 90s. I know the brother of another man murdered around the same time. I know of seven other gang-related murders (by my count, it may be more). My brother-in-law was shot at in the city. I’ve been shot at in the city (a very long time ago). Three of my high-school friends died doing drugs there (again, a long time ago). I have no good memories of the city, except for my time at El Dorado Park Church as a youth, but I’m pretty sure church property bordered the city, so it does not count. And… don’t get me started about the casino.