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A city in mourning

Mourning Mendez and Rodriguez


The cars lined up all day Sunday, Feb. 9, as friends, family and Oñate High School football teammates of Luis Mendez kept the suds flowing as they cleaned vehicles.

Everyone went into action as soon as they heard the tragic news that Mendez, 18, died in a car crash early Saturday.

Proceeds from the car wash were to go to Mendez’s family to cover funeral expenses, as will proceeds from a 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, spaghetti dinner at the Oñate cafeteria, 5700 Mesa Grande Drive.

According to a Las Cruces Police Department report, Mendez was the sole occupant in his car on Bataan Memorial West early Saturday morning, and the crash was caused when a black Camaro, likely traveling in excess of 120 miles per hour, hit Mendez’s car, killing him instantly and setting the vehicle ablaze.

Adolfo Angel Gurrola-Romero, the driver of the Camaro, was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident that caused death, aggravated driving under the influence, reckless driving and failing to give immediate notice of an accident.

“Luis Mendez was a student-athlete who was part of the Las Cruces Public Schools family,” said LCPS Superintendent Karen Trujillo. “He went to Sonoma Elementary School, Camino Real Middle School and Oñate. He left his mark on each school and will be missed dearly. The LCPS family extends our deepest condolences to the family.”

Mendez’s aunt, Maria Quinones, has organized a GoFundMe account to help with expenses.

“We’re all devastated,” Quinones wrote in the GoFundMe introduction. “He was only 18 years old, a long life ahead of him cut short. God took him too soon. He was funny, loving, caring, full of joy and laughter.”

Subhead: Rodriguez dies in combat

“Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez was selfless and served honorably; he was certainly among the best in our unit,” 7th Special Forces Group Commander Col. John W. Sannes said of Las Crucen Antonio Rey Rodriguez, who died Feb. 8. “Here at the Red Empire, we take care of our own, and Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez’ family will forever be a part of us. We will assist them in any way we can to help them through these trying times.”

Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces died Feb. 8, from wounds sustained during combat operations in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Also killed was Sgt. 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28, of San Antonio, Texas.

Both soldiers were assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, according to a Feb. 9 news release from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The U.S. Army has said the incident in which they were killed is under investigation.

Born in Las Cruces, July 26, 1991, Rodriguez graduated from Mayfield High School in 2009.

Rodriguez enlisted Oct. 13, 2009, and completed One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Ga. He was posthumously promoted to sergeant first-class and awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.

Rodriguez attended the Basic Airborne Course and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program and was assigned to the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

In June 2018, Rodriguez voluntarily re-classified as a cryptologic linguist (Spanish). He was deployed eight times with the 75th Ranger Regiment and twice with 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Afghanistan.