The homeless woman accused of deliberately driving her car onto a crowded sidewalk on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday night is apparently a Facebook fan of black megapastor T.D. Jakes, who has addressed the Black Lives Matter movement and blamed racial profiling for the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown.
As WND reported, 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 Tuesday with with murder with a deadly weapon, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, child abuse and child neglect or endangerment. 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. Holloway could face the death penalty, according to District Attorney Steven Wolfson.
According to various reports, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has declined to say what Holloway said about why she crashed into the pedestrians.
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. Holloway is now on suicide watch at the Clark Country Detention Center.
Her cousin has said Holloway’s family believes the young mother fell asleep at the wheel.
A review of what appears to be Holloway’s Facebook page, which was last updated on Oct. 23 while Holloway was in Miami, reveals a typical social media profile, with only a few photos of Holloway and her child. Holloway doesn’t appear to have made many posts on the website, and her profile lists 328 friends. She is a fan of various magazines, restaurants, photographers and musicians. One particular Facebook “like” stands out among the rest: T.D. Jakes Ministries.
T.D. Jakes is chief pastor and founder of megachurch The Potter House in Dallas, Texas. Just one year ago – in front of the glow of an enormous Black Lives Matter sign spattered in blood – Jakes delivered a sermon at his church about “unrest” in America.
“Nobody enjoys seeing the blood of their child run down the sidewalks of our streets, or see their children’s body left lying for hours and hours like dogs on the side of the road,” he prayed. “Let them hear us. From the church house to the White House, from the White House to the crack house, from the crack house to the poor house, let them hear us. Mercy, Lord. Mercy. Enough is enough. We cannot breathe.”
See T.D. Jakes’ Black Lives Matter sermon:
Upon Michael Brown’s death in August 2014, Jakes wrote in the Huffington Post that “recent events have placed my sons squarely on the endangered list. … The seemingly willful killings of unarmed black men like Michael Brown, Jr. in Missouri, Trayvon Martin in Florida or Eric Garner in New York, all have their origins in the odious practice of racial profiling.” Jakes also gave a prayer at Brown’s funeral.
So far, there’s been little indication of any motive – racial or otherwise – that may have prompted Holloway to mow through the crowd of innocent people with her car.
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.
Holloway was reportedly 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. 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.