Aurora victim’s family takes in Coyotes-Avs

Sometimes, it’s wise to take a minute and consider who might be cheering for the opposing team in the seat next to you. Not all out-of-town fans should be treated as enemies.

Take Sandy Phillips, for instance, who attended Saturday’s Coyotes-Avalanche game at Arena to cheer on the Avs. Phillips’ daughter, Jessica Redfield Ghawi, 24, was just beginning her sports journalism career for a Denver radio station, covering the Avalanche, when gunman James Holmes took her life in the Aurora theater shootings in July 2012.

“We have a 20-second 911 tape where you can hear 31 shots fired,” Phillips said. “In 90 seconds, he fired at least 70. My daughter was hit six times. She was pinned down and had no chance of escape. She was in a war zone, and nobody deserves to die like that.”

Since that tragic day, Phillips and Jessica’s stepfather, Lonnie Phillips, have fought tirelessly for stricter gun controls and bans on assault weapons.

Both were on hand to deliver petitions to Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake on Friday in the Valley, joining Ahwatukee residents Caren and Tom Teves, who lost their son, Alex, in the same shooting. 

“We would really like to see universal background checks put onto a national level so that states with weak laws can’t keep feeding into states with strong laws. Gun trafficking has gotten out of hand,” Sandy said. “I see absolutely no need for 30-round, 50-round and 100-round guns. They’re a danger to our public safety and anybody can get their hands on them.”

It has taken months, but Sandy said she has slowly been able to remember all the good things about her daughter instead of focusing on the loss.

“She loved what she was doing, and she brought such a positive attitude and feeling to those around her,” Sandy said.

One of those people was Adrian Dater, the Avs’ beat writer for the Denver Post.

“I saw a lot of myself in her, and that’s why this hit so close to home,” Dater said. “I was a kid who moved away from home — from New Hampshire to Colorado — to try and make something of myself, and she moved from Texas to Colorado.”

Dater admitted that Jessica helped him remember how fortunate he was to have gotten into this line of work.

“That’s kind of my personality, the pessimist kind of guy, so she definitely helped me keep that focus,” he said. “That’s why it was tough for me. She was so ambitious and such a great girl.  She knew what she wanted to do, and she was already doing it at her age. The fact that she’s gone still bothers me a lot.”

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