Everyone responds to pressure differently. But to mow down people on a crowded sidewalk in Las Vegas?
To me, that incident, which killed a 32-year-old Arizona woman and injured many other people, including four college wrestlers, was almost as frightening as the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Although many more lives were lost in those incidents, the Las Vegas tragedy ranked right up there for sheer randomness and lunacy.
The Las Vegas tragedy also struck closer to home: Our 26-year-old son, Charlie, is a graduate student at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and he has often walked along the part of Las Vegas Boulevard where 24-year-old Lakeisha Holloway, a homeless mother from Portland, ran amok in her 1996 Oldsmobile.
Fortunately, Charlie wasn’t on The Strip Sunday night, and he’s scheduled to fly into KC this afternoon to spend Christmas with us. Sadly, the family of 32-year-old Jessica Valenzuela of Buckeye, AZ, will not experience the joy of her presence this Christmas, or any Christmas in the future. She is the one victim who died. Three other victims were in critical conditions with serious head injuries.
One of the ironies of the incident is that Holloway’s three-year-old daughter was safely strapped in the back seat of the Oldsmobile as her mother wreaked havoc.
According to an arrest report, Holloway told investigators that she hadn’t been drinking or using drugs but was under extreme stress because security personnel at various parking garages kept moving her along as she tried to sleep in her car.
That part — that she was prodded to move along — jibes with what our daughter, Brooks, told us after returning from a recent visit with Charlie. She said hotel, casino and restaurant personnel do not tolerate any loitering; if you’re not spending money, you can’t take up space anywhere.
Investigators believe Holloway was headed to Dallas to find her daughter’s father after they had a falling out. Along the way, she apparently ran out of money.
Adding to the complexity and sadness of this case is that fact that just a few years ago, Holloway appeared to be on the verge of overcoming a very difficult childhood. An African-American newspaper called The Skanner, which covers the Pacific Northwest, published a story in 2012 about Holloway. She had recently completed a program offered by the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, which reconnects “alienated, at-risk youths” through education, work training and mentoring.
In the article, Holloway described being homeless during her freshman year in high school and said that her mother had lost hope after struggling many years to earn a living with only an eighth-grade education. Her mother had turned to alcohol, leaving Holloway to fend for herself. With the help of the industrialization center, Holloway had obtained a high-school diploma and was pursuing a career in the U.S. Forest Service.
The Skanner quoted Holloway as saying: “I would like to thank the Forest Service for sending me an application and taking a chance on me. And I’d like to thank POIC for the love and support and for being more than a program, for being a blessing.”
For whatever reasons — maybe pregnancy and the responsibilities of motherhood, maybe a failing or failed relationship with her little girl’s father — Holloway’s hopes of pulling herself up by her bootstraps crashed down Sunday night on The Strip.
The irony is hard to grasp. In a matter of moments, the energized atmosphere of the Las Vegas Strip — lights, action, thrills! — turned into a scene of carnage, with bodies flying and blood flowing. And Holloway, who seemed close at one time to pulling herself together, is now charged with murder, child abuse and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.