Jonathan Cortez was killed by a hit and run driver on 54th Street while skateboarding home last fall. Today, the teen's death has led to safety improvements that could save the lives of others.
“We lost a young person unnecessarily,” said Anastasia Brewster, of the City Heights Development Corporation.
Cortez's tragic death in October 2015 on 54th and Lea streets in Chollas Creek has turned into a bittersweet triumph for the Chollas View community.
New sidewalks and bike lanes were installed in July on the northbound side of 54th, the same side of the street where police believe Cortez was skate boarding without a sidewalk or bike zone for protection. The same side of the street Cortez's schoolmates at Crawford High School continued to use for cross country training after his death.
“I had to be extra, extra careful just walking,” said Bahdoon Mall, a cross country runner at Crawford High School. “But now we can feel free because we have our own sidewalk."
“It’s great,” said Crawford High Cross Country Coach Tlaloc Venancio. "Having sidewalks just gives us peace of mind as a coaching staff and administration at school"
The sidewalks and lanes were installed nine months after Cortez's death -- much faster than the normal two or three years improvements might take.
Those safety measures were fast-tracked thanks to the efforts of many Chollas Creek residents.
“The community became galvanized,” said Brewster.
Brewster’s organization and others, along with Cortez's friends and family, took their impassioned pleas for sidewalk safety on 54th Street to the city council.
They got fast results, making sure Cortez's death wasn't in vain -- and making sure other kids are now safer when walking in that area.
“We need to work with our city as residents. We need to raise voices to let our leaders know where we need to fix deficiencies in transportation infrastructure so this type of tragedy doesn’t happen again"
This October will mark a year since Cortez was killed. Police still don’t have a suspect in custody.