As It Happens

El Paso newlyweds died protecting their baby from gunfire, friends and family say

Jordan and Andre Anchondo were just starting their lives together — but it was all cut short on Saturday morning when a gunman opened fire at a crowded shopping plaza in El Paso.

Jordan and Andre Anchondo just celebrated their 1st wedding anniversary

Newlyweds Andre and Jordan Anchondo were among those killed in the El Paso, Texas, mass shooting on Saturday. (Andre Anchondo/Facebook)

Transcript

Jordan and Andre Anchondo were just starting their lives together.

The young couple had welcomed a baby boy into the world two months ago, they celebrated their first wedding anniversary last week, and they were getting ready to throw a housewarming party at the home that Andre had built for his family.

But it was all cut short on Saturday morning when a gunman opened fire at a crowded shopping plaza in El Paso, Texas, killing the young couple and at least 20 other people.

"It really hits deep," Andre's friend Benjamin Thompson told As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

'She gave her life'

Jordan died after shielding her newborn son from a hail of bullets, her sister and aunt told CNN, and Andre died shielding her. The baby is in hospital being treated for broken bones — the result of his mother's fall.

"So [the baby] pretty much lived because she gave her life," Jordan's sister Leta Jamrowski told The Associated Press. 

Andre holds his newborn baby. (Jordan Anchondo/Facebook)

The reports of Andre protecting his family to the bitter end came as no surprise to Thompson.

"I knew that he would have done anything for them — and he did," Thompson said. 

"It was the only thing that was positive out of everything that happened, not that any of it was positive. But the fact that their little boy is alive is amazing. That child is a ray of light in everyone's eyes and has always been and will continue to be because of them."

Jordan helped Andre turn his life around 

Thompson said he and Andre were friends when they were in high school together in El Paso.

"I remember there was one time we were at this social event together and I was kind of parted from my group of friends and kind of alone and lost in the crowd," he said.

"I didn't really know Andre at the time, and he sort of reached out for me and gave me somewhere to be and someone to talk to and friends to be around — and that was just the kind of guy that he was."

The two friends lost touch for a number of years, Thompson said, but reconnected last year. He said he was delighted to learn that his old friend was doing well after struggling to get his life together. 

"When he met Jordan that was his, I guess you could say lifeline, second opportunity at life," Thompson said. 

Jordan and Andre were married for just over a year when they were killed. (Andre Anchondo/Facebook)

In an interview with the Guardian, Jordan's cousin Monique Terry called her "the light of our family."

"She brightened up the room. Her laugh was contagious. She always put you in a better mood," Terry said. "She always saw the good in people."

Andre fell in love with Jordan, Thompson said, and he loved her two young children as if they were his own.

He started his own business building things from granite and stone, and saved enough money to build his new family a home. 

"When I spoke with Andre he was always just so happy about having his family, and how he wanted a child of his own," Thompson said.

"And I remember the day that he told me about him finally finding out that he was going to have a child of his own. That was, I can tell you, the single-handed best day of his life — obviously up until he was able to hold that child for the first time."

'He laid his life down for them'

When news broke of the shooting on Saturday, Thompson said he and his friends were in a panic waiting for news about Andre.

"After countless hours of not knowing what had happened, we came to the realization that ... he didn't want anyone to get hurt ever, and let alone his family," Thompson said.

"That's the realization that we came to is that he laid his life down for them, before we even knew what happened to him."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Benjamin Thompson produced by Katie Geleff. 

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