They Always Say That….2 Narratives, Pt. II

Alex Contreras had been in a gang, but his family and friends say he was trying to get out of it and had started covering his gang tattoos with other images. Brandon Beck had been a starting varsity football player at Chandler High School and a star baseball pitcher for his club team. His mom, a former Tempe police officer, and his stepdad, a current Phoenix police officer, doted on him. Both teens were starting to turn their lives around, their loved ones say.

Those who loved Contreras and Beck want it known that they were not punk gang members whose lives should be swept under the carpet. “I am Brandon Beck’s mom,” said Kris Oldenberg, of her son, who would have turned 19 on Sept. 9. “I just want somebody to know my son was a good boy.” Contreras’ brother, Ivan, said Contreras was working two jobs and studying to get his high school equivalency diploma. “My brother was a good person,” said Ivan, 15. “He was always there for me.” Family members and loved ones are upset over characterizations of Beck and Contreras, 19, as documented gang members. They also are upset that the shooting has been described as justified. This person shot two people multiple times but no shots were fired at him,” said Christine Vasquez, 40, of Bullhead City. “Who is responsible for serving liquor to minors? That led to this incident in the first place.”

Vasquez credits Contreras with saving her life when she was floundering in the Salt River, water over her head, and unable to swim. Contreras, who was in shallow water, “swam as fast as he could to get her and did,” said Vasquez’s daughter, Renita Garcia. “He saved her.” Last May, the last time Vasquez saw Contreras, he drove from Chandler to Bullhead City and spent six hours landscaping her yard. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Vasquez said of the shooting.

Sounds like a couple of great kids, right?

At the $2-per-person keg party, in the 600 block of North Sunland Drive, the trouble began when the party hosts, nervous that someone had a gun, tried to shut down the party. Police say that about nine street-gang members and their associates who were in attendance were unhappy with the decision to end the party and tried to leave with a keg of beer. They argued, fought and pushed people to the ground as they left, police said. Contreras lifted his shirt to show the gun, they said.

The female party host followed them to the street, arguing. Her husband went to her side, and was punched in the face and attacked, police said. Contreras drew his gun and trained it on the man and his wife, police said. The host drew his own weapon and asked Contreras to drop his, police said. It was after the party host was knocked to the ground, that Conteras continued pointing the gun at him and that Beck lunged for him, that the party host fatally shot them, police said.

Chandler police reported that the two were documented gang members and that Contreras had a semiautomatic pistol that he displayed and wielded. Beck, they say, attacked the party host at least once, punching him so hard in the face he knocked the man to the ground.

So – 2 great kids, turning their lives around, attempt to steal a keg of beer and when confronted about it start pushing people around. When the female host confronts them they verbally abuse her; her husband goes to defend her and gets punched in the face and a gun pointed at him. Host pulls his own gun and demands that Contreras drop his; he gets assaulted again, knocked to the ground and the other great kid “…lunge[s] at him…” and, in fear for his life, shoots the one attacking him and the one with a gun pointed at him and his wife. Later it turns out both are known by the police to be gang members, as are most of their friends who helped in this little escapade.

Why do these 2 themes seem to be at odds to me? 

If  I’ve been assaulted by a group of teenagers, punched in the face, knocked to the ground and have a gun pointed at me – I am in fear for my life. The characterization of this shooting as justified seems one hundred percent correct to me.


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