David Jordan was saving for a future he dreamed of--but could not readily put to words.
At age 8, he received two piggy banks in which to save his chore earnings. His grandmother and others were only able to teach him to speak at age 9. He struggled and with special education help from Long Beach Unified School District, and a private advocate, he proudly graduated Lakewood High School.
"I homeschooled him for three years," said his grandmother who raised him, who only gave her name as Mrs. Jordan. "He had to work very hard and it took a lot of patience from everyone. It took a lot of love. It took a lot of love."
Born with autism, Jordan, 20, is now tragically deceased, having been shot by a Long Beach police officer in his family's kitchen. Earlier, he'd yelled that he wanted cops to kill him, clutched a knife and his grandmother called 9-1-1 for help.
On this much, police and the Jordan family can agree.
As investigations continue into the officer-involved shooting in the 1900 block of East Hardwick Avenue, his family grieved over his death by what they said were three bullets to the chest.
On Monday, his grandmother spoke to Patch before she was headed out to be with David's body for the first time since Sept. 11. She'd had 15 seconds with him after he died, she said. After the private visitation, she would be picking out his burial clothes--all white.
"Because he was pure," she said.
David was a baptized Mormon and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS (Latter Day Saints). That's where his viewing will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, his grandmother said. A funeral will follow at the church at 10 a.m.
Mrs. Jordan said she encouraged those who knew David--from Lakewood High, where he'd managed to graduate in five years with the help of special education courses, and from Cypress College, where he was currently enrolled in continuing education courses -- to attend services. She said his life story will be shared in pictures, and a eulogy.
On Tuesday, David's special education advocate, Steven Figueroa, spoke of him fondly and said it had been a pleasure to work with him since he was 17.
David had been at Jordan High but Figueroa quickly helped get him to Lakewood High School, where the school's particular services better served his needs.
"I enjoyed working with David because he showed so much promise," said Figueroa, 51, who has advocated for students since 1985. "He had hopes and dreams."
His June 2012 graduation, which was captured in the attached photograph, was a huge source of pride for him. In another picture, he is standing over a graduation cake, sporting a chef hat.
It was fitting, Figueroa said. "David wanted to be a culinary specialist, to learn how to cook food. He wanted to be a chef."
Yes, he said, it was pretty ambitious. Then again, David had managed to get through high school just years after learning to speak. He had 'Rainman' qualities like Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie, Figueroa said. But David, he said, wanted more.
"There's a 50% drop-out rate for Hispanics," which was David's heritage, Figueroa said. "And he had autism. The district offered him other non-diploma tracts. But he wanted to graduate."
David was always saving, he and his family said. Before he could talk he would point and use his hands to express himself. He also drew art. He liked to talk, especially about what he liked. He would fixate on one thing and talk endlessly about it, Figueroa said, adding that he rarely watched TV.
At 19, David began the painstaking task of learning how to get from one place to another on his own. The school district provided a mobility specialist. "He had trouble with money. And he had to know how much change he got back. He had difficulty understanding how much he had. Each try, the teacher picked him up, got him on the bus, he had to have a specific routine, "and they have to do it over and over and over," said Figueroa.
"That took almost a year. Because one of the characteristics of autism is they get disoriented easily. And that's why they need routine. And if they do anything different they get thrown off. But David did learn it."
Figueroa said he found endearing David's "love for his grandma, his wanting to protect her," and "his air of innocence. He was just a simple guy, good natured. So kind. He couldn't hurt an ant."
Mrs. Jordan, the grandmother who adopted and raised him, recalled how one of his two piggy banks was stolen in a burglary of their home, and a couple of years later, police returned with one of them, though it was roughed up. At one point when the family couldn't pay their utility bill, the power was shut off, and despite frantically working with the utility to restore it, but with a lack of heat for a few days, David's pet iguana died. He loved animals, and it was traumatic, yet he soldiered on.
Figueroa said he did not see depression in David Jordan. But it may have been a new behavior based on medication. Figueroa hadn't seen him in a few months-- he'd been hospitalized for 32 days following quadruple heart bypass surgery, he said. So he wasn't current on David's medication.
Having graduated high school in June, Figueroa observed, David Jordan "was no longer in that routine. So that structure and support had suddenly changed, and now he is in a new world and has to learn a new coping strategy."
Non-credit classes at Cypress College had just begun Sept. 10, the day before his death, and he returned home Sept. 11 early from school, via bus, not feeling well, his grandmother said. A prior medication caused liver trouble but a replacement medicine was not relieving his depression, the family said.
His grandmother said he'd reached anguished lows at times before from depression, but fearfully would resist going to a hospital to be medically supervised when he became overwhelmed and "wanted to see God," in his childlike notion of removing his pain by going to Heaven.
On Tuesday, she said she was trying to console herself in her faith that David's in peace. "He's beside God now, with someone who loves and understands him."