Drumming was his life – until he got shot The Chandler Arizonan

Drumming was his life – until he got shot

December 1st, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
Drumming was his life – until he got shot
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By Kevin Reagan
Arizonan Staff Writer

Tommie Bevardos had accepted the fact his days as a professional drummer were over.

He thought a stray bullet had ruined his dreams nearly a decade ago after a near-fatal incident in the Arizona desert left Bevardos disabled and unable to pick up his drumsticks.

Doctors warned his injury would probably keep him from playing music again. So, Bevardos sold his drum set, got a day job and tried to settle into a quiet domestic life in Chandler.

But his wife, Lacey, kept nudging him to reconsider his decision to quit playing music. After much poking and prodding, Bevardos started practicing again earlier this year and rediscovered how his drums could offer him a comforting creative outlet.

He’s now determined to get back into the industry he walked away from 10 years ago.

But it’s not for the fame and glory, the 47-year-old said, as it is about proving his life won’t be defined solely by a gunshot wound.

“I’m not trying to chase rainbows,” Bevardos said. “I want to be able to inspire drummers.”

Bevardos is a native of Santa Monica, a city often portrayed as Southern California’s prime destination for beach parties and stunning sunsets.

But he described his childhood as being anything but glamorous or sanguine. The kids from his rough neighborhood were expected to grow up and become either a drug addict, a dealer or gang member.

“I didn’t fit into any of those,” Bevardos said. 

His mother pushed him to take piano lessons and he struggled to master the hand coordination it required.

Bevardos said he was more interested in using his mother’s tupperware containers and kitchen utensils as a makeshift drum set.

By his teen years, Bevardos had committed himself to drumming and played whenever and wherever he could. After high school, he started playing for various bands and touring around the state.

He could rotate through different genres – rock, pop or funk – and found himself increasingly in demand throughout the 1990s.

Bevardos said he once auditioned for Alanis Morissette during the peak of her singing career. But she cancelled her tour and Bevardos missed out on what could have been a high-profile job.

But he said his career didn’t suffer from the missed opportunity since he continued getting lucrative drumming gigs up through the early 2000s.

“You don’t need to be a rock star to make a nice living as a musician,” he noted.

By the time he married and had a child, Bevardos decided to take a break from touring and relocated to Arizona.

On Dec. 29, 2010, Bevardos had some time to himself and decided to go hiking alone in the Four Peaks Wilderness area up in a remote region of Maricopa County.

As he was walking out of a ravine, Bevardos recalled hearing four loud gunshots ring out from a distance. He stumbled back, fell down an embankment and landed on a bed of rocks.

His leg felt numb and he noticed a hole in his pants near his upper thigh area. Realizing he’s probably been shot, Bevardos said he quickly used his belt as a tourniquet to tie around his bleeding leg and began crawling back up the embankment.

His cellphone service was spotty so he figured his best chance was crawling all the way back to his car.

An hour passed by and Bevardos noticed his vision started getting blurry by the time he reached his car.

“Everything started going black,” he said. “I started getting scared because I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

A man out walking his dog luckily stumbled upon Bevardos and called the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. He was rushed to a Scottsdale hospital and underwent surgery to save his wounded leg. 

Bevardos said the bullet grazed an artery and passed down his femur until it lodged up against his kneecap.

“That’s where it’s parked to this day,” he said, noting that doctors chose not to remove the bullet.

Who fired the shot that struck him is still a mystery.

He thinks someone in the wilderness fired at him because the bullet in his leg came from a 45 mm gun and Bevardos said the firearm he had with him that day was a 9mm model.

But the Sheriff’s Office said it appears Bevardos may have accidentally shot himself with his own gun.

Sgt. Jason Gilchrist, who works in the agency’s lake patrol division, said the case was ruled an accident based on evidence reviewed by deputies and lack of other 911 calls for a mysterious shooter on the day of the incident.

The area where it happened is a popular spot for gun enthusiasts, he added, especially in late December.

“We get a lot of target shooting out there,” Gilchrist said. “During that time of the year, there would be a little bit more than right now.”

Bevardos further disputes the accident theory because, he said, the bullet entered his leg from an unusual angle that would have been awkward for him to fire the gun himself.

Regardless of how it happened, the shooting forced Bevardos to spend weeks relearning how to walk with the assistance of a cane.

Since he couldn’t work while in recovery, Bevardos sold his beloved drum set – valued at about $10,000 – in order to support his family.

The music career he had spent years investing in was suddenly gone and Bevardos fell into a deep depression.

“I was in a very dark place for quite a while,” he said.

He got a job at AutoZone and still struggled to walk without the assistance of a cane. One day, a child came into the store and asked why Bevardos walked “funny.” 

“That hit me really hard,” he recalled. “I took my cane and I chucked it.”

Bevardos went back to physical therapy and improved his strength enough to where he could walk with only a slight limp. Yet, he still didn’t show much interest in trying to play music again.

His wife eventually took him to a local music store and forced him to simply go inside and look around.

It worked.

Bevardos quickly found himself feeling enthused by the sight of all the drums and cymbals.

Over the last year, he has been practicing each day on a small electric drum kit and slowly building his skills back up to where he was 10 years ago.

Bevardos said he’d like to get back into a recording studio or drumming on a live stage in the near future.

But he realizes that goal may be difficult considering how much the music industry has changed since his heyday in the 1990s.

He has tried to adapt to the times by creating an Instagram account and regularly posting videos online of himself drumming.

Bevardos is also trying to raise $4,000 from family and friends through crowd-funding sites to buy a better drum set that he hopes could put him on a path back into the business.

The response and support he has received so far has been overwhelming, Bevardos said, and his new venture has given him something to be passionate about for the first time since the shooting. 

“Now it’s like I have something to look forward to,” he said.

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