A 32-year-old mother of three is dead, and 37 more people were injured after a 24-year-old woman drove a sedan into crowds of people on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday evening, December 20.
The chaos ensued at around 6.40 P.M. when the woman, Lakeisha Holloway, driving a 1996 Oldsmobile, veered onto the sidewalk, hitting a woman, and breaking the car’s windscreen. The car plowed into more pedestrians before leaving the scene. Holloway’s 3-year-old daughter was in the backseat at the time, and was unharmed. The little girl is in protective custody.
Watch this CNN news report on the incident:
Holloway was arrested about half an hour later. She had allegedly driven about one mile from the scene of the incident on a flat tire. Holloway then stopped at a hotel and asked a security staff member to call the police because she had just hit a lot of people, according to the police arrest report.
— FOX5 Las Vegas (@FOX5Vegas) December 21, 2015
A KTNV news report said witnesses reported members of the public had tried to stop the driver. After she fled the scene, the young woman briefly barricaded herself in the car before police arrested her.
— Kelsey Thomas (@KelseyNews3LV) December 21, 2015
Holloway has been charged with murder with a deadly weapon, child abuse, and leaving the scene of an accident.
The motivation behind the violent attack remains a mystery.
Fox News correspondent Will Carr wrote on Twitter:
Sheriff: not comfortable disclosing what driver said about why she crashed into so many people on Las Vegas Strip #FoxNews
— Will Carr (@WillCarrFNC) December 21, 2015
Some of Carr’s Twitter followers suggested that the police chief had been asked to keep quiet, perhaps by someone in the government, while other people took a stab in the dark at the young woman’s motives. Facebook users have also offered their opinions about why the young woman would want to plow into crowds of tourists.
Holloway and her 3-year-old daughter had reportedly been living in the sedan in Las Vegas for a week prior to the incident. On Sunday, Holloway told police she had been trying to sleep in the car, only to be shooed off a number of times by security guards in different parking facilities.
— FOX5 Las Vegas (@FOX5Vegas) December 21, 2015
Holloway had also been homeless for a period of time during high school. She talked about her troubled youth in a promotional video for the nonprofit Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, where she participated in an employment and training program. The center honored her for her achievements in the program with a Role Model Award in 2012.
The center put out a statement regarding Holloway and the Las Vegas crash:
“Ms. Holloway had invested years in overcoming her disadvantaged background, and was successful in her academic and career pursuits. Portland OIC is committed to supporting youth through the age of 25, however, Ms. Holloway has not been involved with the organization for at least two years.”
Four hours after Holloway was taken into custody, family and friends of the woman who was killed, Jessica Valenzuela, were starting to learn what had happened.
Around 10.20 P.M. on Sunday, Jessica Valenzuela’s sister-in-law, Nydia Valenzuela, changed her Facebook profile picture to a black ribbon, and her cover photo to a picture of her nieces — Jessica’s three daughters.
Friends and relatives soon started asking: “Hi Nydia, what’s happening?”, or “Pumpkin, what’s wrong??? Is everyone ok?”
After the initial shock of the tragedy, the family set up a GoFundMe page on December 21 to help with burial costs, the cost of transporting Valenzuela’s body back to her hometown in Buckeye, Arizona, and to help the family take care of her three little daughters.
Valenzuela’s brother, Bryan Roessler, thanked people for showing support in their time of grief. He wrote on Facebook:
“There are absolutely no words to express how devastating and shocking this loss is. She will be missed dearly, and that couldn’t be more of an understatement. Rest in peace.”
Outrage and grief
At the same time, Facebook users were venting their own outrage and grief over the Las Vegas Strip incident. Some called for “car control laws,” mental illness checks for drivers, and for the government to deal with the larger social issue — homelessness.
Facebook user Philip Anderson put forward his view about what had happened on The Strip, writing:
“The straight story (so far) about Lakeisha Holloway… She was not on drugs, nor drunk. This was not religion based, nor does it appear racially motivated. My thought is she was in sleep-deprivation psychosis. She was homeless, living in her car, and had gotten extremely freaked out when she was run-off of several properties while attempting to sleep in her car, with her child, and ended up on The Strip, where she did not want to be. However, none of that excuses what she did. But, we also can’t jump on the “terrorism” bandwagon, if this was a mental breakdown. But, it is crazy nonetheless, and I am upset that someone had to die, and hope for the speedy recovery of everyone who was injured and traumatized by this person’s actions.”
Another Facebook user, Elizabeth Reeder, expressed some degree of empathy for the suspect:
“I don’t know about this crash in particular… But let me take a moment to be thankful because I’ve been there… Do you know how exhausting it is to be homeless? Reminds me of a memory I have roaming the streets endlessly when my daughter was a baby. I was living in a shelter with her. The shelters make you leave the facility between the hours of 9-5 because they believed you should be job hunting… But what kind of job can you get when pushing around a 1 y.o. in 110 degree weather all day with no cell, no experience, no transportation… Oh ya… And a baby in your arms. Shout out to anyone who has ever helped me in my life… I owe so much to you!”
Michael Akeiba Fard wrote:
“The girl was obviously ‘sleep driving.’ She was homeless and nobody would let her stop and rest. For them to even mention terrorism is sick.”
Dominick Ambrosio said the incident should throw up red flags about mental illness:
“The U.S. is very inadequately prepared in addressing the mental illness that is running rampant here, and should be more worried about taking care of the mentally impaired then worried about lone wolf attacks, cause a mentally impaired person could strike at any moment whether a disgruntled worker, a person who stops his meds, or a person who don’t even know he is mentally ill.”
Donna Hutt Stapfer wrote:
“Not saying this would have been prevented, but someone alone in a car with a three-year-old who appears stoic after this much mayhem probably needs more than a cup of coffee. I am so sorry.”
Other Facebook users took the opportunity to highlight the fact that not all acts of violence involve guns.
Kenneth Starcher wrote:
“Hmmm, look at that. 30+ people hurt, and not one shot fired. This goes to prove we don’t have a gun problem, but a people problem. Are they going to blame the car here like they blame the gun, nope cause that’s stupid. Point proven, if someone wants to hurt people they will use what ever they have to do it.”
Anthony Mancuso wrote:
“Cars are just as much a weapon. Notice the words used in the article “WEAPON” used. This lady intentionally drove her Giant piece of metal/death machine into a crowd of people, wanting to kill. So it be a Gun, Knife, or Car, it’s all the same. But, cars are ok though I only nag you because you give guns a bad rap, but NOTHING ELSE? That’s kinda wrong if you ask me.”
Kathleen Sloan wrote:
“These days cars are more deadly than guns. Well, of course it’s always the nut case behind the tool. She wrecked countless lives because she was tired & stressed? Who the hell isn’t? But we don’t go mowing down lives with a 2000 lbs car.”
And a post with a slightly different tone was penned by Wayne Ariss:
“Who will join me in demanding that Congress remove the right to own motor vehicles from everyone except police officers, and military personnel on official duty? The sooner we get these deadly weapons off the streets, the safer our streets will be! Remember: we have bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and walking shoes — there is no reason for any average American to own a motor vehicle. We need common sense vehicle laws now! GET CARS OFF THE ROADS, AND MAKE A SAFER AMERICA!!!”