Inside the lobby of Gilbert’s Town Council Chambers, a promotional poster touts Gilbert, AZ as the place where you want to live and notes it was named as one of the Top 100 safest places to live in America by Money Magazine in 2010.
The East Valley town also is where Mayor John Lewis is known to say, “This is another great day in Gilbert.”
But on May 2, that seemed to all change as political figure J.T. Ready, a former head of a neo-Nazi white supremacist group, shot and killed four people including a toddler, before turning the gun on himself. The violence that day – in the middle of Domestic Violence Awareness Week – ended the lives of five people at 530 W. Tumbleweed Drive: Ready, 39; Ready’s girlfriend, Lisa Mederos, 47; Mederos’ daughter, Amber Mederos, 23; Amber’s fiancé, Jim Hiott, 24; and Amber’s daughter, Lily, 15 months.
During a community meeting in Gilbert’s Town Council chambers attended by about 75 people on Thursday night, town officials including Mayor Lewis, Gilbert Police Department officials and FBI Special Agent-In-Charge James Turgal provided information about the tragedy.
Those who work with domestic violence victims and a victim of domestic violence urged those in attendance to be brave and stand up to those committing such acts and hold them accountable.
“This situation is not a reflection of our community,” said Gilbert Police Chief Tim Dorn.
Some in attendance said they are worried for the safety of their children in the neighborhood. Others expressed concern about hate crimes as Gilbert police are continuing to investigate a cross burning incident that happened toward the end of last year.
But Lewis said, “May 2 was a different day, a tragic day,” in a town that is relatively safe and low in violent crime. He said the town can recover from the tragedy through the continued inspiration of community members coming together and supporting the family.
“Domestic violence should not be kept a secret,” said Lacey Rose Cox, counseling services manager and administrator for Gilbert, who was quick to remind those in attendance that although Gilbert is low in domestic violence complaints, one in four women experience domestic violence and most incidents do not get reported because of fear.
Police had arrived at the home on Tumbleweed near Cooper and Warner roads within three minutes after dispatchers received two 911 calls. The first one came at 1:08 p.m. from Lisa Mederos screaming “Oh my god! He’s got a gun!” as gunshots rang out and the line went dead. The second 911 call came at 1:10 p.m. from Brittany Mederos, Lisa’s other daughter, who told the dispatcher she heard arguing in the living room as she hid in a back bedroom. She screamed that her mother’s boyfriend, J.T. Ready, had a gun. Brittany, who was not shot, was the only one in the house who survived and discovered the bodies.
Authorities say it may never be known why Ready killed them. However, many of Amber Mederos’ friends said that Lisa Mederos was trying to break up with Ready because of his “violent tendencies.” In fact, police said that in February, Lisa Mederos filed a complaint against Ready, accusing him of trying to choke her.
But it was too late.
The alleged choking incident took place five months before Mederos informed police of it; therefore, there was no physical evidence that Ready actually did anything, police said. Ready did not cooperate with police regarding the complaint.
Gilbert resident Leah Pettyjohn, who said she is a victim of domestic violence, also spoke at the meeting.
“You have to stand up and be heard,” said Pettyjohn, who is working with state legislators to pass a law that would require domestic violence offenders to complete their entire sentence without early release from jail. “If Lisa Mederos would have stood up to J.T. Ready earlier, she might be here today. If you’re a victim of domestic violence and don’t follow through with your complaint, it makes it almost impossible for police to do their job.”
Ready, who was not a convicted felon, was allowed to possess the guns and had a right to free speech, something the FBI was closely watching in the event that Ready elevated his “free speech” to criminal acts.
The FBI does not believe that Ready was plotting to do anything catastrophic with the arsenal of weapons inside the home, but confirmed he was a suspect in a four-year ongoing investigation linking him to domestic terrorism, Turgal said.
It is not known at this time whether Ready stole the grenade launcher found at the home from the service when he was a Marine, if he facilitated a deal with a person in the military to get it for him, or if he bought it on the black market.
“We are working to find that out,” Turgal said.
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