GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – A homicide victim in Garden City is being remembered as a choir director, a restaurant owner and a father figure with the biggest heart.
Ernest Ortiz, 69, was found late Thursday fatally wounded outside El Conquistador, a restaurant he opened 39 years ago. He was suffering from gunshot wounds and died at the hospital. Police are trying to find the person who did it.
For family and friends of Ortiz, it is a shock.
“He was the best person ever,” said Ricardo Landeros. “He’s one of the greatest, one of the greatest people I’ve ever met.”
Landeros worked for Ortiz in high school, but it was more than an employer, employee relationship.
“I worked for him for five years and he promoted me to assistant manager my senior year,” said Landeros. “He took me into his house and he was a father figure when my dad left, and so I was living with him at his house and he just kind of took over as a dad for me.”
“He showed me discipline and he showed me how to be selfless because this man, he cared about the world,” said Landeros. “He cared about the community. He would do anything for anyone.”
Community members and close friends said Ortiz would help with the local wrestling team, mentor several people, and even played in a band. They also said they are in disbelief that this could happen to such a giving guy.
Police believe the shooting stemmed from a robbery and are looking into several leads.
“I don’t know why bad things happen to good people,” said Landeros. “He is such a good person and if it was for money, maybe he should’ve asked for money and Ernie would’ve given it to him.”
Landeros says that he is studying hospitality management at K-State because he and Ortiz were going to open a second El Conquistador in Manhattan.
“We had this huge plan of franchising El Conquistador,” Landeros said.
He hopes to continue with that plan because he thinks that’s what Ortiz would have wanted.
As for the restaurant in Garden City, Landeros says they will reopen it sometime in the next couple of weeks.
If you have a tip call the Garden City Police Department at (620) 276-1300 or submit anonymously by texting 847411.