Coming together for Ayden: High school, community mourn local teen killed in shooting

By Abigail Youmans & Suzannah Couch | The Democrat

With a point of his finger or pump of his fist, 17-year-old Ayden Lentz made all feel accepted, supported and welcomed. Now the community is mourning the unexpected loss of the teen’s life who would do anything for anybody — with a smile on his face.

On June 25, the county’s coroner’s office and emergency personnel responded to a home on South Drive in Parkview just before 9 a.m. Lentz was reportedly found in the home, having suffered a gunshot wound, which was the cause of his death, Coroner Earl Piper said.

Lentz would have been a senior at Brown County High School this upcoming school year.

A few days after the shooting a crowd of students, school staff, parents and community members gathered outside of a baseball field at Brown County Schools Eagle Park to mourn the loss of the teen together.

Lentz lived in Brown County with his grandmother Robin Rose. His mother is Kristin Roberts and his father is Jason Lentz.

His grandmother described him as a “sensitive, kind-hearted young man. He always wanted the people around him to be happy. He had a beautiful smile. He loved his friends, family and animals, especially dogs. He will be greatly missed by a plethora of people.”

Describing Ayden as a good listener and someone always willing to help or cheer someone up, aunt Amber Stephens said her nephew just loved life and his family. He was a great big brother to his two sisters, Evalyn and Sophia.

The goal of the memorial gathering on June 29 was to bring students together and receive counseling if needed from local mental health care provider Centerstone and local pastors, Principal Trent Austin said.

Austin addressed the large circle of people gathered under the summer sun, hugging each other as tears ran down their faces. Ayden was one of the first students he met when he took over as the high school principal at the beginning of last school year.

“I will tell you this that as a high school principal I met one awesome human being, one awesome person. I will tell you this that day I gained a friend. I gained a friend in Ayden,” Austin told the crowd.

“I was new to the high school and he welcomed me in with a fist pump. That little point Ayden gave you. You knew you belonged.”

Local pastor Cory Joy was one of two who offered prayer during the ceremony to help those who are suffering find peace and comfort.

It was important to bring students — and staff — together to mourn Ayden’s passing. If this had happened during the school year, all of these resources and an opportunity to gather to mourn together would have happened the next school day, Austin said.

Not far from where the crowd stood was the field Ayden had played baseball during his high school career.

“Ayden impacted everyone’s life and was a happy, go lucky kid that was going to do great things in life and will be greatly missed by everyone,” said baseball teammate Jack Sichting.

Baseball was one of his passions. He had been playing since he was a kid.

“They called him A-Train when he was younger playing baseball,” Stephens said.

Austin said Ayden would want everyone to come together to support each other during this difficult time because that is what he did.

“Anytime a student at the high school would need help he was there to help them. Anytime anybody needed someone to have their back he had their back. That’s who he was,” Austin said.

“I remember calling him into my office, saying ‘I need your help.’ You know what? He did just that. … He stepped up and helped out one of his fellow classmates. I had confidence in him to do that and he delivered. He absolutely delivered.”

One student wrote in the memories on Ayden’s obituary page at that he once caught her crying in the hall while she was filling up her water bottle. Ayden walked over to share kind words before heading on his way. That was the first time the student had met Ayden. He left her with a smile — just like the one he often wore on his face.

“He made everyone’s day better. He was so caring and kind to everyone and he will be missed,” the student wrote.

The care he had for people has been shared by many in an outpouring on social media.

Michelle Wagers said that Ayden tried to fill missing moments in her own life in honor of her son Keaton, 19, who passed away in October 2020.

The boys were good friends.

When Mother’s Day or other holidays rolled around, Wagers said she would hear from Ayden. Some days he would message her just to see how she was doing.

“For almost two years he has messaged me on Mother’s Day, other holidays and many times just to say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ and ‘Lil Pete is still watching out for us,’” Wagers wrote on Facebook.

“Lil Pete” was one of the little plastic soldiers she passed out at Keaton’s basic training send-off to remind people to pray for him and all of the other soldiers, she said.

Ayden named his soldier after Keaton’s nickname, Peter, and he always let her know he still had “Lil Pete.”

“I am going to miss those random messages from this thoughtful young man,” she continued in the post. “I literally just talked to him Thursday before the accident. Ayden, I hope that you and Keaton have reunited up above and I will never forget you and your sweet heart.”

Austin described Ayden also as an advocate for his friends, someone who would encourage his classmates to reconsider a decision that may not be in their best interest.

He had an impact on his teachers, too.

Brown County High School art teacher Andi Rogers-Bartels had Lentz as a student in one of her art classes. She said it was difficult to come up with something to say about him in this time of grief.

“This is just so devastating for all the kids involved,” she said. “Ayden was just such a sweet kid. He had a great sense of humor and cared about others so much. He was a joy to have in class even when he was goofing around. I will miss him so much.”

At the memorial gathering high school business teacher Aimee Kroll spoke about how she had only started teaching in January, but knew Ayden well because he was one of the first people to welcome her to the school.

His father said seeing nearly 50 people show up to honor his son made his heart happy. He thanked everyone for coming together to celebrate his son.

“Ayden was an amazing, bright son. He would do anything for anybody. He helped everybody,” Jason said.

“I am sure he touched you guys in some kind of way whether he waved at you, fist pumped you. That warms my heart you guys come out and show up for him.”

Piper ruled the shooting as a homicide, meaning the death of one individual was caused by the actions of another.

According to Brown County Prosecutor Ted Adams, a 17-year-old juvenile suspect was taken into police custody. That individual’s name has not been released and charges have not been formally filed. Details about the shooting have not been released to the media.