Michael Mendez, a former Roosevelt High School football player, died Wednesday in Boyle Heights. Photo by Eddie Ruvalcaba.
Mendez, who is remembered as a friendly and positive person, was pronouced dead at 1:46 p.m. yesterday. He was 20 years old. The official cause of death has been ruled a suicide, according to records by the coroner’s office Friday.
Mendez graduated Roosevelt in 2013 and joined the U.S. Army Reserves shortly after. According to sources, he had just received a job offer to help coach football at Stevenson Middle School.
Valerie Garcia, 18, a close friend who had known Mendez since they attended Roosevelt in the same class, says she was shocked when she first heard about his passing from a photo posted on Instagram.
“I couldn’t believe it. I just spoke to him yesterday,” said Garcia of her reaction Wednesday. The two friends had made plans to go out this weekend, possibly bowling. Although Garcia says the pair recently spoke about life and relationship troubles, she didn’t think “it would lead to something drastic like this.”
“He was a great guy. He was always positive, always smiling. He would try the impossible to make everybody laugh. He had a beautiful soul.”
At Roosevelt High School Thursday, football coach Javier Cid described Mendez as a hard worker, on and off the field.
“He was involved in the community,” said Cid of the defensive lineman who participated in the Boyle Heights Wolfpack football league as a child before joining the Rough Riders.
“I spoke to him the day before. He would come by and hang out,” said Cid. “I asked him, ‘How are you doing? He said, ‘fine.’ ”
Because Mendez had graduated two years ago, he wasn’t widely known by current students, says Cid. But many football players and coaches still remember him and are planning ways to pay tribute to their teammate.
Roosevelt High School is providing counseling and psychiatric support to students and teachers affected, with direct efforts to Mendez’s sister, a 9th grade student at Roosevelt as well as a cousin who also attends the school.
Details on funeral services or donations have not yet been made available.
For resources on suicide prevention visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1 (800) 273-8255.
This story has been updated.