LAS VEGAS — Mourners in Las Vegas are preparing to lay to rest a young police officer who was ambushed Sunday as he took his lunch break, his partner, who tried to shoot back at the assailants in spite of his own mortal wounds, and a Wal-Mart shopper who died trying to take down a gunman with his concealed weapon.
A funeral for Officer Igor Soldo, 31, is set for Thursday, while a service for Officer Alyn Beck, 41, is scheduled for Saturday. Relatives of good Samaritan Joseph Wilcox, 31, have not yet set a date for his memorial.
Soldo moved with his family from war-torn Bosnia when he was 13 and dreamed of becoming an officer, devouring books about the FBI and criminal interrogations, his father, Pero Soldo, told the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1jgcGtO ).
He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and worked as a correctional officer at a Lincoln jail until he got a job at the Las Vegas Police Department in 2006.
Soldo married a fellow correctional officer, Andrea, in 2009, and they had their son, Logan, last July.
“He was a wonderful child, a wonderful husband, a wonderful father,” his mother, Sirli Soldo, told the newspaper.
Soldo was the first to be gunned down midday Sunday by a married couple, including a man who espoused anti-government views and called law enforcement officers “criminals” in YouTube videos.
Soldo’s neighbor in Nebraska, Kathy Kapustka, noted the tragic irony in the death of the “brilliant, brilliant boy.”
“Survived a war and then to get killed here,” she said. “Their family came here to be safe.”
After Soldo was shot at a Cici’s Pizza about 5 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, Beck returned fire but was ultimately killed by the couple.
“He didn’t cower. He went to get his gun. That was bravery to the end,” said Tracy Smith, a friend who met Beck through church. “That was Alyn. He never turned from a fight. He never turned from a challenge.”
Beck, who was from Wyoming, wrestled in high school, practiced mixed martial arts and had advanced weapons training. But he also had a soft side, Smith said – he loved to go out dancing with his wife and was thrilled when they recently had their third child.
A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Beck served as a Sunday school teacher and as his church’s emergency preparedness coordinator. He was also an avid woodworker who jumped at the chance to help others with home improvement projects.
“He didn’t deserve to have this happen to him,” Smith said. “He should have been left here to do good things.”
Minutes after shooters Jerad and Amanda Miller terrorized the pizza parlor, telling patrons there would be a revolution and draping a “Don’t tread on me” flag on Beck’s body, they descended upon the Wal-Mart across the street.
Shopper Joseph Wilcox could have easily escaped through the front door when the couple walked in, fired a warning shot and told customers to get out.
But instead of fleeing, Wilcox, the proud new owner of a concealed weapon permit, lifted his shirt to grab his gun and slinked along a wall in a tactical position as he approached the shooter.
“He totally surprised me,” said Wilcox’s best friend, Jeremy Tanner, who had accompanied him to the Wal-Mart. “I expected him to leave with me.”
Wilcox didn’t see Jerad Miller’s gun-wielding wife as went in for the kill. Wilcox crossed in front of Amanda Miller, who fatally shot him in the ribs.
Tanner found himself standing outside the store alone for hours, anxiously awaiting a friend who would never come and never again answer his calls. It took more than 12 hours before authorities notified him that his best friend was the lone bystander dead inside.
A lifelong Las Vegas resident who aspired to police work and enjoyed four-wheeling with his friends, Wilcox was remembered as a generous man who jumped at the chance to help his ailing grandfather at all hours of the night.
“I’m not saying there aren’t people out there that do that,” Joanne Wilson, Wilcox’s aunt, told The Associated Press. “But my nephew did that without batting an eye.”
The Millers, who had apparently been wounded by teams of responding officers, died in the back of the store. Amanda Miller’s death was ruled a suicide, and her husband’s, a homicide.
The lives of Jerad Miller and Wilcox, who were both 31, overlapped in their enthusiasm for guns. Miller posted a YouTube video saying everyone should have a gun and calling all gun control laws illegal. Wilcox was known for “ranting about people who were anti-gun” on his Facebook page, Tanner said.
Wilcox, however, will be remembered as “a selfless hero,” Tanner said. “He put his life on the line for other people’s lives.”