The homeless woman accused of deliberately driving her car onto a crowded sidewalk on the Las Vegas Strip told investigators that she was stressed out by security guards who repeatedly chased her from parking lots, where she had been trying to sleep in her car, the AP reported Monday.
Lakeisha Holloway, 24, was taken into custody after police said she purposely and repeatedly drove her car, with her toddler inside, into a crowd of pedestrians on the Las Vegas strip, killing one and leaving at least three dozen injured.
She was charged Monday with attempted murder, first-degree child abuse or neglect and failing to stop at the scene of an accident. The deceased was identified as a 32-year-old Arizona woman named Jessica Valenzuela.
The Oregon native “would not explain why she drove onto the sidewalk but remembered a body bouncing off her windshield, breaking it,” according to a police report obtained by the AP.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said it’s not clear what may have caused Holloway to “snap.”
He said investigators think Holloway had been in Las Vegas for about a week and was believed to be estranged from the father of her child, reported CNN.
In 2012, Holloway was publicly honored for turning her life around.
The Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, which helps at-risk youth with education and career training, presented Holloway with its C.A.R.E. Role Model Award in 2012.
“Boy, have I come a long ways,” Holloway said in a 2012 video produced by the nonprofit group. “I was a scared little girl who knew that there was more to life outside of crime, drug addiction, lower income, alcoholism, being undereducated — all of which I grew up being familiar with. Today, I am not the same scared girl I used to be. I’m a mature young woman who has broken many generational cycle(s) that those before me hadn’t.”
Holloway said she was homeless in high school and nearly failing all her classes. But she graduated with a B+ average, went on to college and started working with the U.S. Forest Service.
“She was such a great kid while she was a part of our program,” one of the youth employment staff members said, according to a POIC statement.
Las Vegas Deputy Police Chief Brett Zimmerman said the incident was “not an act of terrorism,” but did seem to be an intentional act and officials were investigating, NBC News reported.
“We have determined that this is an intentional act,” Zimmerman told reporters during a news conference.
At the same time, Israel has seen recent similar acts of violence at the hands of terror-tied suspects. For instance, just this past October, a Palestinian terrorist smashed his car into a crowd of people waiting at a bus stop and then jumped out with a meat cleaver and began hacking people. One was killed in the attack and a couple more seriously injured, Townhall reported.
One blog, SuperStation95, did report the woman screamed “Allahu Akbar,” while driving into the crowd, but that information hasn’t been substantiated by police or reported in other media outlets.
What has been widely reported is Holloway was driving down a portion of street near the Paris Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood hotels around 6:40 p.m. Sunday when she allegedly swerved onto the sidewalk multiple times, smashing her car into a crowd of pedestrians.
Holloway and her 3-year-old daughter had been sleeping in a 1996 Oldsmobile in parking lots and garages.
Witnesses said Holloway slammed into the crowd, backed up, and then sped up as she plowed into another group of people.
Rabia Qureshi, a Wisconsin resident visiting Las Vegas, told KSNV the car looked like “a bowling ball and the human bodies were like pins. … I saw some people fly in the air.”
Tourist Justin Cochrane added, “It was mayhem and it was very intentional. People were flying. It was a sound I will never forget. [The car] wasn’t hitting cars, it was hitting people,” USA Today reported.
Holloway then drove from the scene and police found her vehicle parked at a hotel down the road. She was arrested and is due to be arraigned Monday.
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The 3-year-old wasn’t harmed, NBC News reported.
“This is a huge tragedy that has occurred on our strip,” police Lt. Peter Boffelli said, NBC News reported.
The injured, 36 or 37 people, according to various media accounts, were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment. Several were in critical condition.