PHOENIX -- A young Mesa man credits a fallen police officer with the positive changes he's made in his life and now wants to serve the community as the late Sgt. Brandon Mendoza did.
"Brandon was my true hero," said 22-year-old James Pinkerton. "I thought about doing drugs or joining a gang. Brandon was trying to change my life and that's exactly what he did. He told me just because I grew up in this part of town I could live a better life, that I could succeed. I want to be a police officer because of him."
Pinkerton said he met Mendoza at Guerrero Rotary Park in Mesa, the same park he is credited with transforming.
"He took time out of his day to talk to me or to just say hello," said Pinkerton.
Residents who live in the area near Southern and Country Club in Mesa describe a crime-ridden park in the heart of a crime-ridden neighborhood transformed because one person showed an interest in making the community better.
"This park would still be in shambles if it wasn't for him," Pinkerton said.
Mendoza is said to have tackled crime and drugs while beginning a movement within the community. Mendoza, who was killed by a drunk wrong-way driver earlier this month, inspired residents to care and to take back their community from the criminal element.
Recently, top city leaders announced that a baseball field inside the park was named after Mendoza. Fundraising efforts have started to continue the improvements he was so passionate about.