Mourners gather to remember life of one victim of Harford workplace shooting

and Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Alex Orellana struck his right hand once on his chest Friday, tears spilling from his eyes onto his black tie, as the casket containing Jose “Oscar” Hidalgo Romero's body was wheeled to the front of an Edgewood church.

Orellana's toddler son, Isai, crawled on to his lap, and the father buried his head in the child's shoulder.

Orellana and his family members were among more than 200 mourners who gathered late Friday for a viewing to honor the life and contributions of Hidalgo Romero, one of three men killed in a shooting this week at a Harford County granite counter maker.

Two days earlier he had been standing with his brother-in-law, Hidalgo Romero, when the man accused in the shootings, Radee L. Prince, came into Advanced Granite Solutions in Edgewood, pushing the workers and calling them stupid, Orellana told The Baltimore Sun on Friday.

"While I sang 'God is Here,' [the shooter] appeared," Orellana, 28, said. "When he gathered us, all I could sense was that there was a threat — Oscar was still working. I wanted to step forward but was frozen."

The events of the day replayed in his mind as he saw Hidalgo Romero lying in the casket at the front of the Edgewood Assembly of God church.

A poster-size picture of Hidalgo Romero — a native of El Salvador who was in his early 30s — was propped up next to the copper-colored casket. He looked into the camera with a broad smile and bright eyes for the undated photo.

"He died to save the lives of others that weren't prepared to die," the Rev. Jose Orellana said in Spanish as a child translated his words into English.

Family and friends said they hoped to have Hidalgo Romero's body transported to El Salvador next week but are still trying to raise the money to do so.

Alex Orellana, whose sister was married to Hidalgo Romero, said the couple have one son, Oseas, 13. Both mother and son live in El Salvador.

Also killed in Wednesday's attack were two other co-workers, Bayarsaikhan Tudev and Enis Mrvoljak.

Mrvoljak's widow, Ramiza, was seated quietly in a back row of the packed church Friday. She had traveled to Maryland from Bosnia-Herzegovina after the attack to prepare services locally and to arrange for the remains of her husband of 28 years to be returned home.

Mrvoljak, 48, of Abingdon was planning to travel home to Bosnia-Herzegovina for the holidays to be with his wife.

Through a translator, she said she wanted to support Hidalgo Romero's friends and family.

A service for her husband is planned for Tuesday at March Funeral Homes in Baltimore.

It could not be determined what service arrangements have been made for Tudev, a 53-year-old native of Mongolia who lived in Arlington, Va.

Orellana said Friday that he and Hidalgo were working — he was singing the Christian hymn while his brother-in-law listened on headphones to Christian music — when Prince, a machine operator who had worked at the company for the last four months, entered.

Orellana said Prince moved through the workers, stopping at Orellana and Hidalgo Romero to taunt the men, saying that they could "throw your Christianity in the trash."

Police said Prince gathered Hidalgo Romero and others into a group in the company’s rear workroom, pulled out a handgun, opened fire and chased after a few people as they all fled, killing the three and injuring two others: Enoc Villegas Sosa, 38, of North East and Jose Roberto Flores Gillen, 37, of Edgewood. Both remained in critical condition Friday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Orellana said he was able to escape without injury.

Prince, 37, then drove to Wilmington, Del., where he allegedly shot a sixth man at an auto shop there as part of another targeted attack, according to police. He was arrested about 10 hours later and is awaiting extradition to Maryland from Delaware, where he is being held on $2.1 million bail. He faces charges including multiple counts of murder and attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. A preliminary hearing is scheduled in Wilmington on Oct. 31.

Hidalgo Romero, who worked as a granite polisher, was a prominent member of the Latino community in Edgewood and Aberdeen, and friends called him a man of strong faith. Police identified him as 34, but his friends said he was 32.

He helped found the Church of Pentecost in Aberdeen three years ago. He worshiped there many days a week and helped pay the church’s rent.

Friends said Hidalgo Romero left El Salvador 13 years ago. Much of his family, including brothers and sisters, remained in the Central American country, and he sent money to them.

At Friday’s service, Hidalgo Romero's family and friends said they wanted the service to convey a message.

"We need to serve the Lord, because our time is unknown," said the Rev. Roberto Martinez of Pentecostal Church of God Pathway to the Cross of Edgewood. "These five young people who went to work Wednesday morning had no idea what was going to happen that day.

"If Oscar was here, he would say, ‘You have to be ready.' "

ywenger@baltsun.com

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