Speaking to the hundreds of people who gathered Sunday evening at a vigil for Nogales Police Officer Jesus Cordova, many wearing blue in support of law enforcement, Alyssa Cordova asked them to remember that her husband “loved to serve” his family and community.
“I just ask that you keep his memory alive to make sure that nobody forgets that he gave his life for you, for your children, for his brothers and sisters in blue, and for me,” she said during the event outside Villa’s Market, where her husband was fatally shot Friday afternoon while trying to stop a carjacking suspect.
“I’m very proud of the man my husband was,” Alyssa Cordova said, speaking at a podium next to a makeshift memorial filled with photos of her husband, U.S. flags, flowers and candles.
Like his wife, other relatives and friends of Jesus “Chuy” Cordova remembered him as a loving family man dedicated to his law enforcement career. They also recalled his sense of humor and love for music and horses.
His cousin Olivia Martinez described him as kind, humble and supportive of his extended family.
Cordova, an only child, was born and raised in Nogales, Sonora by his mother Francisca Salazar, then moved to Nogales, Ariz., where he enrolled as a freshman at Nogales High School, family members said. He was on the Apaches soccer team and graduated in 1992. His father is Juan Cordova Santa Maria.
“He did so many things. So, so many things with his life,” Salazar said. “He had a lot of friends. He was a good son, and a good person.”
Cordova always knew he wanted to be a father, his loved ones said.
“He was the best dad” and his children were his “pride and joy,” Martinez said.
Czarina Acosta, Cordova’s sister-in-law, said Cordova and her sister raised three children together: 8-year-old Sophia, 2-year-old Nicolas and 1-year-old. She said Alyssa is five months pregnant and plans to name the child, a boy, after his father.
“Jesus was an incredible, selfless man. He was the type of guy that would put everyone else before him. He was a fun guy to be around,” Acosta said, adding that Cordova always made his friends and family smile.
Acosta said Cordova had a side job working as a DJ and his company, SoNiVi DJ, was named after the first two initials of each of his children.
She said he loved all kinds of music, but especially cumbia, and played at house parties, quinceañeras, weddings and other events.
Mary Lou Jimenez of Nogales knew Cordova for 28 years, since he and his mother, her close friend, moved into her apartment building.
She said Cordova liked riding horses, regularly wore cowboy hats and boots, and used to host a show on La Maxima radio.
Once during a Mother’s Day show, she said, Cordova joked: “This is dedicated to my mother, but also to all my ‘tias’ (aunts) because I’ll be sorry if I get home and I didn’t mention them.”
She said Cordova was very close to his mother, and would always help her when she got sick.
He had a joyful marriage and always held Alyssa’s hand, Jimenez said. “He was always right there for her.”
Cordova’s cousin Monica Valdivia said he was more like a big brother to her, even though they grew up in different states.
“He was truly a funny, energetic young man, but even more, he was a generous human being with a kind soul,” Valdivia said.
She shared examples of Cordova’s sense of humor and the pranks he would pull on her, like when she thought they were both recording a song together but he was only recording her “awful” rapping.
Valdivia said she and her cousin talked about the dangers of working in law enforcement, but he always responded: “I do it for my family and my community, and that’s what matters”.
Cordova showed an early interest in policing. Salazar said that when her son was young, he thought about being a garbageman, a firefighter or police officer. When he was 10 or 11, he joined a youth program where he would help direct traffic in Nogales, Sonora.
“I know law enforcement was in his heart,” said NPD Officer Mario Morales, a close friend of Cordova.
Morales first met Cordova when Cordova was working private security near the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry.
“He was like, ‘I really want to be a cop, I really want to be a police officer,’” Morales recalled.
Cordova achieved that dream by working as a sheriff’s deputy before transferring to NPD. Cordova was “always wiling to help” but also had a sense of humor, Morales said.
About 13 years ago, he said, they attended a training at which Cordova recorded a checkmark in a notebook for each “um” the instructor said. Later, Morales said, “We see each other in the hallway and go, ‘Um, um, um.’”
NPD Officer Scarlett Bunting said young officers looked up to Cordova. He was incredibly close with his law enforcement family, she said, and the last conversation she had with him was about his future son.
“He was at the height of his career, of his life, of his personal life,” Bunting said.
NPD Chief Roy Bermudez spoke of Cordova’s service and sacrifice during the vigil on Sunday.
He told the crowd that Cordova had been killed in his patrol car that he stopped right where some of them were standing.
“If Officer Cordova wouldn’t have been here, and wouldn’t have put his life on the line for our community, imagine if this individual would have gone into Villa’s at 2:30 in the afternoon,” Bermudez said, in reference to the busy supermarket.
Also during the event, Licinio Oliva, pastor of the Comunidad Cristiana church in Rio Rico, led the attendees in prayer, and Gamaliel de la Rosa, of The Biker Show motorcycle group, presented the extended Cordova family with money and gifts.
The funds were raised earlier in the day at a car wash at Hilda’s Sports Bar in Rio Rico hosted by The Biker Show, American Legion Riders Post 23, Los Compadres and the Aztecs – all motorcycle groups.
The vigil was attended by Cordova’s family, wearing matching blue shirts with ribbons pinned to them, as well as his friends, community members and dozens of law enforcement and public safety officers from NPD, the Nogales Fire Department, Sheriff’s Office, Border Patrol, Arizona Department of Public Safety and other agencies.