With trials, suffering and hardships, a community’s strength can be refined.
Our Ahwatukee Foothills community has witnessed its share of tragedy and injustice this summer. Multiple deaths of community members tied to Desert Vista High School, a case of robbery and sexual assault, and the death of Alex Teves in the mass movie-theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. Still, one prime example of people rising to protect the community rose through the madness.
To the residents here in this special pocket of Phoenix, these “breaking news stories” aren’t just stories, but harsh realities that hit close to home. Those realities, however, could be counted as blessings in disguise. Opportunities, if you will, for the family-like community that is Ahwatukee to band together in strength and unity.
Pat Quinn, a beloved security guard at Desert Vista High School was found dead on the school’s track in the early morning of May 23.
Phoenix police said Quinn, who was known to run the track often, died of a heart attack. Quinn was in his 50s and had worked in the district from 2002 to 2004, and again from 2006 until his death.
In early July, the nine-vehicle wreck on Interstate 10 near Ahwatukee took the life of 21-year-old Aaron Brandt. As Brandt drove a black Toyota pick-up truck down the interstate near Ray Road, witnesses said he began to swerve and ended up facing eastbound traffic, said Officer Carrick Cook, a DPS spokesman.
Brandt’s truck was then hit by a box truck and caused it to spin out onto incoming traffic. A succession of more vehicles followed, including a semi truck being turned on its side. Brandt, who graduated from Desert Vista in 2009, had died at the scene after he was ejected from the truck.
Timothy Lupton-Stegall lost his battle with cancer on July 28. The Desert Vista graduate of 2008 was recognized in February as Arizona Special Olympics’ “most inspirational athlete.” His involvement and encouragement of teammates while facing personal obstacles caught the eye of those behind the Special Olympics.
At 23, Timothy was known to bring positivity, strength, laughter, and a warm smile to his track and cross-country teams during high school, according to a previous AFN report.
The hero lost too soon
Alex Teves, 24, of Ahwatukee was among 12 other victims who lost their lives in the mass movie-theater shooting in Colorado during the “The Dark Night Rises” premiere.
Teves was also a Desert Vista graduate, and had died protecting his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren, from gunfire in the crowded theater.
“All of the people in the theater that night went to see a movie about a superhero,” said Ty Carlson, one of Teves’ best friends. “What they did not know was that there already was one sitting among them.”
As the succession of gunshots began, Teves pushed Lindgren onto the ground and under the seat. He kept her head low and used his own body as a shield to protect her, Carlson said.
Teves was often referred to as a funny, sincere, kind, and compassionate man, with a bright future ahead of him in physical therapy.
As the nation watched the capture and first court appearance of alleged shooter James Holmes, the stories of heroic actions from those in the theater pushed through.
Teves’ father, Tom, challenged the media to take the focus off the suspected gunman and on to the victims and their families.
“We’re not going to let the cowards win,” said Tom, with a brave tone. “To honor his life, we have to live like he did.”
up to the plate
Just a day after three armed men invaded and robbed a woman’s Ahwatukee home, after sexually assaulting her, Phoenix police were able to put them in jail.
The woman, 45, was alone in her home on July 18 near 12th Street and East Marketplace when the three men invaded her home, tied her up, and “ransacked” her home before taking her 2001 Jaguar, according to Phoenix police.
The men initially yelled to the woman from outside her door, pretending to have the woman’s daughter. The incident sparked police to warn residents.
“Be hesitant to open the door to strangers, and if you see suspicious activity in your neighborhood don’t hesitate to call the police,” said Officer Benjamin Morris, a Phoenix Police Department spokesman.
But in a noteworthy action to protect a local business, patrons and employees foiled an attempted robbery at Michael’s Creative Jewelry last week.
At the time of the robbery attempt by five armed men, several of the nine people who were in the store jumped the men. From there, a fight broke out that injured a few who were involved.
The five men also tried to tie up some of the people in the store, who were both customers and employees, but were unsuccessful, Thompson said.
“All of this combined to scare off the suspects and they fled the scene empty-handed,” Thompson said.
Although the men got away, as police have yet to apprehend them, the vibe of protection continues to flow through Ahwatukee. Those inside the store near 48th Street and Ray Road took a stand to the crime they were set in front of, and decided that protecting their community was worth the fight.
Despite a summer filled with grief and surprise, it’s those true and few moments of solidarity that can keep people going.
At least for me it is.
• Diana Martinez is freelancing this summer for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.