Editor's Note: This story was corrected July 5, 2012. See reference at end of story.
At noon Wednesday at the First Assembly of God, 532 W. Ray Road, Chandler, funeral services will be held for Aaron Arnold, a young member of the BMX bike riding community who died last week when he was struck by a vehicle while riding his bike across Arizona Avenue.
In an outpouring of support, the owner of Chandler’s Serenity Bike Shop that Aaron, 11, often frequented, has received hundreds of emails, text messages and telephone calls from around the world, expressing condolences for the boy’s death. Aaron was killed about 12:45 p.m. last Friday as he was crossing a busy section of Arizona Avenue near Knox Avenue as he was on his way to the shop.
Aaron was described by Serenity Bike Shop owner Tyler Coleman as someone who had “a lot of heart” and wanted to be “just like his older brothers” Chandler, 15, and Kyler, 14.
On Tuesday, Aaron’s father, Jason Arnold, who is grateful for the support shown by the community, described his son as a special kid.
Struggling to find the words, Jason Arnold said of his son, “He loved his family. Football, wrestling and bikes. That was his life. He liked music. He was strong, smart and funny.”
Aaron also is survived by his mother, Trisha, and sister, Faith, 13.
This Saturday — a day that was set to be a grand opening of AZ Grind, an indoor skate and bike riding park in Mesa — now will be a time for a fundraising benefit and bittersweet celebration of sorts as one of the younger BMX bike riding community members will not be there.
Several companies, such as Sparky’s Distribution and Quinton Co., who are sponsors of AZ Grind’s grand opening, also have donated extra riding gear and items to be raffled off to raise money to help Aaron’s family cover his funeral expenses.
“The BMX bike riding community is like a family,” Coleman said. “If someone who rides a BMX bike is killed, all of the riders band together to show support.”
Coleman said Aaron “had a lot of heart. He reminded me of the little chihuahua who thought he was a Doberman Pinscher. He thought he was one of the older kids. Whenever we told him that we thought he couldn’t make a jump, he would prove us wrong and do it ... If he fell, he just got right back up again. All he wanted to do was ride his bike.”
After Aaron’s funeral, a procession of BMX riders from throughout the Valley will make the near two-mile ride from the church to Espee Park in Chandler, a bike riding park Aaron often rode in before he would go to Serenity Bike Shop.
Serenity was one of Aaron’s favorite places to escape the heat in between riding at the nearby Espee Park and hanging out with his friends and older brothers at the nearby Burger King, Coleman said.
“I had just rang up a customer and looked out the window and saw Aaron and another kid starting to cross the street,” Coleman said. “When I looked back up, I only saw one kid making it across the street.”
Aaron, who was leaving the Burger King to hang out in the bike shop with his friends moments before he was killed, had forgotten his helmet that day and was doing something his older brothers had told him not to do — crossing the street between a Long Wong’s restaurant and the plaza the bike shop is in instead of using a crosswalk.
The motorist Chandler police say struck Aaron, Ronnie Chavez, 24, left the scene, only to turn himself in later. Chavez told police he was scared because he currently is among a group progressing through Maricopa County Superior Court on drug-related charges for his alleged involvement in a heroin trafficking ring. That case is being prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
On Tuesday, Chavez was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, a Class 3 felony in connection to Aaron’s death, according to information from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Correction: Due to a reporter error, a story in Wednesday’s Tribune about a Chandler boy killed in a hit-and-run accident, incorrectly connected the family of the driver to a heroin-trafficking ring that is being prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The Tribune apologizes to the Chavez family for the error.
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