HE PUT A GUN TO MY HEAD WHEN I WAS 17.
When I was 17 years old, I had a gun put to my head and my car was stolen…yeah you read that right.
My senior year of high school, I moved to a new state and a new school. I now lived in a super small town in Arizona and it was a small country little town, that I actually loved. Now before we get to the real juicy part of the nightmare I lived in, I need to give you a little back history of my life.
Growing up, I was huge into sports but basketball was always my first love. I played varsity basketball all 4 years of high school and went on to play at 2 smaller community colleges. I struggled the first 3 years of high school when it came to not only school, but basketball. I never felt like I belonged or fit in, but that all changed when I moved to Arizona and went to my new school my senior year. The school was super small, and I think my graduating class was no more than 200 people and for the first time in 4 years, I felt like I belonged on my basketball team. The girls on my team were amazing and it wasn’t cliquey like the other teams I played on. I actually meet my best friend (of now 8 years) on my basketball team and every where I went, she went and vise versa. When I was 16, I got a 1992 Acura Viger for my 16th birthday and LOVED that car so much. He (and yes my car was a boy lol) made the drive all the way from Washington to Arizona with us. Now that you have a little back story, we can get to the juicy part because let’s be real, you only want to know about the gun to my head…I get it, I get it lol
About a week before Christmas, my entire school was on winter break that lasted about 2 weeks, but during winter break I still had basketball games, practice, and tournaments and our practices were at 7 in the morning. I still don’t understand why we had to get up that early, but we did. I played AAU basketball (select or club) since I was 10 and my coach always told us that if you are on time, you are late and if you are 15 minutes early, you are on time. I would always show up to practice at 6:30-6:45am but before I would go to practice, I would always pick up my best friend from her apartment.
This morning was no different than any other morning. I woke up at 6am and it was pitch dark outside. I mean it was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I got ready for practice, had my breakfast and was out the door by 6:15. Now, we lived in the middle of the desert, the nearest neighbor was maybe 10 minutes away (walking, 3-5 by car), and we lived on a little ranch that had a massive fence and gate to keep all the predators off our property and to protect not only our animals but ourselves. The moment I walked out the front door, something felt off. I didn’t know what it was but I just felt this weird energy/vibe all around me. I ended up SPRINTING from my front door to my car which was no more then 10 yards away. You know that intense feeling you suddenly get, that someone is going to grab your legs out of now where? Yeah, that is how I felt.
I got in my car and I felt a sense of relief and I started to laugh. I couldn’t believe I let the dark freak me out that bad. I turned my music on and off I went to go get my best friend. While I was driving, maybe 5 minutes down the road, that weird feeling came back. I couldn’t shake it but I also couldn’t put my finger on what was going on. I stopped at a stop light and let my best friend know that I was almost there and I was a little early. I finally pulled up to her apartment complex and it was still pitch dark out. I parked under a street light that was closest to her door and sent her another text saying I was here. She let me know that she would be out soon which I was fine with since I was early anyways. I loved my car but it did have it’s little quirks and one of the many quirks was that the car doors would lock only when THEY wanted to. My car had a mind of its own I swear. I’m sitting on my phone, scrolling through facebook when all the sudden my drivers door opens up and my first thought was it was my best friend. When I turned my head to look to see who just opened my door, I didn’t see a person. All I saw was a silver and black gun pointed right at my head. I froze. The person started to talk and that is when I first saw who it was. It was a man with a hoodie on, hood over his head, and he was using his shirt to cover his nose and mouth. All I could see were his eyes and the look in his eyes, was a look I will never forget. He told me to not make a sound and get out of the car. Now me being the person I am, I said HUH?! He pushed the gun into my head and said don’t make a noise and get the fuck out of the car. I felt the cold of the gun on the side of my head and I did exactly what he said. When I was getting out of the car, I had my phone sitting on my lap, I grabbed for it (not thinking anything of it) and he told me to leave it. I ended up throwing my phone in the passenger seat as I got out. I got out of my car and maybe took 5 steps and turned around, that is when I saw that there wasn’t 1 guy but 2 guys and the other guy had a gun pointed at me as well. I kept thinking to myself that this was all a nightmare and I would wake up, but I quickly realized once I peed on myself a little bit, that I wasn't sleeping and I was actually living in a real nightmare. When I snapped back into reality and the shock went away, I ran to my best friend's house and started banging on the door. By the time I got to her front door, the guys had drove off with my car and they were out of site. I had no idea what way they went. I had no idea what they really looked like besides what they were wearing, eyes and skin tone, and I had no idea if I was ever going to see my car again. The cops came right away and I made my statement which in itself is terrifying. I now had 2 detective on my case and they were going to give us a call when they had more information.
An hour or 2 after I had gotten robbed, one of the detectives called my mom and told her that they have gotten a lead on the guys and my car. My car had ran out of gas, which I knew was going to happen since my gas light had been on all morning and my plan was to get gas before practice. Well it had ran out of gas in front of a farmers house that was still in our small town. Apparently, the guys who had stolen my car, went to the farmers house (they broke down right in front of his house/farm) and asked if they could borrow his truck to go get more gas. I told you I lived in a small town, but it was a friendly town and the farmer gave these guys the keys to his truck so they could get gas. I guess the farmer had a weird feeling when he saw my car and the guys who were driving it. In my car I had a bright pink flower necklace that I got from my cousins wedding, which was hanging from my rear view mirror, I had all my school bags and basketball gear in the back seat, and there was a big pink princess crown on the back left corner window that my mom had gotten me. The farmer opened up my car and found an old insurance card and he ended up calling my old insurance agent and that is when he was told the car was stolen. He called the police right away and they said they were on their way and to not let the guys know if they come back. The cops were maybe 2-3 minutes away from the farmers house when the guys who had taken my car returned with his truck and gas. They ended up leaving before the cops got there…..that is when the high speed chase happened.
My 1992 Acura Viger was now in a high speed chase an according to the detective my car was a lot quicker than they thought it was going to be lol. In Arizona, there are things called washes and they basically are huge rivers that only have water in them when the snow melts from the mountains (yeah, there is snow in AZ) or when the rain is horrible. Washes are in the desert and when there isn’t water in them, they are all dirt and sands. That is exactly where the high speed chase ended up. My car went through the desert and was spun out by the cops and there was 1/2 a cactus now in my car because they hit a dang cactus.
At this point there are now 3 men in my car. I guess the 2 guys who robbed me, picked up their friend after they robbed me. The cops ended up arresting 2 out of the 3 guys and the one who put the gun to my head, ended up fleeing and was missing for 2 weeks. Those were some of the worst 2 weeks of my life. I was so scared. This guys knew what I looked like, what school I went to, he knew where I lived, and he even knew what my friends looked like. After 2 weeks of him being on the run, he was finally caught by the SWAT team. This guy tried to use my debit card at a gas station and from there the cops were able to track him down.
I got my car back about 3 weeks later because they had to process all the evidence and do their policing stuff. When I got my car back and met with the detectives, I became sick. My stomach was in knots, I wanted to throw up, and my skin felt like it was crawling. When they took my car, they took a lot of other stuff out of my car. They took my school bag that had pictures of me and friends, my wallet that had my debit card and drivers license with my address, they took my basketball bag, and they took my dirty underwear and bra from my basketball bag. Let’s rewind real quick. The night before I got robbed, we had a basketball tournament and when the games were over, I would always change my underwear and bra because I didn’t want to sit in my own nasty sweat after games lol.
Now fast forward to when I was getting my car back. When I saw my car, there were black finger print dust everywhere, half a cactus was in my car, mud was everywhere inside my car, and then the detectives asked if this was mine…..a big bag of cocaine. I laughed at first but realized they were dead serious. I told them that it was not mine and they thought it wasn’t but had to make sure. Now that I had my car back, I had to go down to the police station and try to identify these guys. I was so scared. I thought I was going to be behind a window and they would be in front of me with a couple other people, like you see on tv but it was nothing like that. I was in an office and the detectives put a piece of paper in front of me with about 8-10 different mugshots and I had to try and pick out who did it. I panicked. I didn’t get the best look at these guys because they had hoodies on over their head and they also put a shirt over their nose to cover their mouth, but I could see their eyes. They are eyes I will never forget. My entire body was shaking and I was sweating like I had just got done playing in a basketball game. I looked over the mugshots and at first I couldn’t do it. All I could see was the barrel of the gun. I took a deep breath and put my hands over every single mugshot so all I could see were the eyes. I went through the first row and nothing. I started on the second row and the 3rd mugshot in, I froze. My heart started to race. My eyes started to water, and I had a flash back and I knew in my heart and gut that this was the man who put the gun to my head. I could never forget those eyes that I stared into while the gun at was my head.I slammed my finger down and yelled, “IT’S HIM! IT IS HIM!”. I had to circle the picture and sign my name to confirm that this was him. The second set of mugshots are now in front of me but to identify the second guy. I was looking through the first row and the last picture in that row was him. I had that same gut feeling, I was sweating, my heart was racing, and I had a flash back. I knew that this was the guy who had the second gun pointed at me. I looked up and asked if I got them and the detective said that he can’t say, but while he was saying that he gave me a thumbs up and was shaking his head yes. I had gotten them and the sense of relief I felt was unexplainable. Before we left, one of the detectives told my mom and I that I was extremely lucky because things could have gone south very quickly. The night before I was robbed, these guys robbed an elderly lady and put her in the hospital (she was okay, I asked) and took her car. The cops started to chase them and they got in a high speed chase and were shooting at the cops. My mom and I were then told that one of them said they should have not let me go…and that sent a chill down my spine. For almost 2 months, I couldn’t sleep nor did I want to sleep alone. I would sleep in my moms room and I couldn’t drive my car. I was too afraid to sit back in my car and I felt so validated.
I thought this was all over, but I was sadly mistaken. School was now back in session and my schools principle sent around an email to all the teachers that I had gotten robbed and to not mention my name or bring it up to anyone because it was still an active investigation. It was already in the paper that a high school student got robbed but because I was still a minor, they could not put my name in it…BUT I lived in a small town so pretty much everyone knew it was me by 12pm on the day I got robbed lol. I was sitting in class and my basketball coach (who was my teacher) got a call and I needed to go to the principles office. Standing there were both the detectives who are working on my case and they had a piece of paper. I was getting subpoena and I had to go to trial for my case. I felt like I had just got punched in the stomach. I couldn’t breath and the nightmare felt like it was happening all over again. I called my mom right away and we started to look into a lawyer. Later that night we got a call from the detectives again to let us know that the guys have taken a plea deal and I won’t have to go to court. They were now going to prison for 10-11 years.
The nightmare was finally over but it hasn’t ended in my mind. I’m now 25 years old, but the PTSD I have feels like I’m still 17 years old some days. Some days I struggled with being alone even in the daylight when I’m out in public. Some days I’m completely fine. Some days the thought of going outside to walk my dog at night is too crippling. Some days, I’m completely fine. Some days, I’m always looking over my shoulders because of the fear. Some days are better than others for me, but I have far more better days than bad days. I have learned to be much more aware of my surroundings and to always listen to my gut. I was extremely luck because things could have been worse and gone south very quickly.
That was my crazy life, at 17 years old.