Heroic California Highway Patrol Officer Killed On Las Vegas Strip Was Groom-To-Be

One bachelor’s final night of freedom turned out to be his final night alive.

As he was preparing to head home from his Las Vegas bachelor party, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and his brother-in-law were killed after trying to stop a man from stealing his pickup truck.

Jesus Manuel Magdaleno Jr. ran after the pickup, shouted that he was a state trooper and jumped into the cargo bed with his sister's husband, Felix Brandon Cruz, while the driver sped wildly away from the valet area outside the Flamingo hotel-casino, according to a police report.

Magdaleno and Cruz had been loading luggage with the engine running and the driver door open.

"They were heading home after an enjoyable time, and they became victims of a horrible crime," Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Steiber said Monday.

"A vehicle is being stolen. His friend is in the bed of the vehicle. He runs to the aid of his friend who is in danger," Steiber said of Magdaleno. "He gave his life for someone else."

A witness on the 17th floor of a nearby casino heard the commotion and told police she saw the white 2009 Ford F150 accelerate away from the Strip, mow down construction cones and speed through red lights on an Interstate 15 overpass.

The woman heard the two men in the back of the truck shouting for help before the pickup collided with a 2001 Ford Escape SUV and slammed into a traffic signal pole about 11 a.m. Sunday in front of the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino, about a mile west of the Flamingo.

Magdaleno and Cruz were thrown from the bed of the truck.

Magdaleno, 33, an eight-year highway patrol veteran from Visalia, was killed at the scene. He was due to be married in September.

Cruz, 31, was pronounced dead Monday evening at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, hospital and coroner's officials said Tuesday.

The alleged car thief, James Robert Montgomery, 29, of Tustin, Calif., was arrested and hospitalized after the crash and booked into the Clark County jail on felony murder, kidnapping, auto theft, battery and robbery charges pending an initial court appearance. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

Three people in the SUV were treated for minor injuries, police Officer Laura Meltzer said.

Montgomery told police he remembered walking around the Flamingo and being in a car crash, but couldn't remember anything in between, according to the arrest report.

Montgomery spoke with a taxi driver before climbing into the driver's seat of Magdaleno's pickup, the arrest report said. Surveillance footage showed Magdaleno chase the vehicle and jump in the bed when it stopped for traffic.

The videos were impounded as evidence and not made public.

Flamingo owner Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokeswoman Debbie Munch issued a statement extending sympathy to the families and friends of the two men. She said the company was cooperating with the police investigation.

The incident was latest in a series of violent acts on the Strip, including a shooting one week earlier involving an off-duty Las Vegas police detective and a man accused of trying to steal a car in a loading zone outside the Excalibur hotel-casino.

Saul Villegas, 27, of Bellflower, Calif., faces an attempted auto theft charge after police alleged he got into Detective Bernard Plaskett's wife's car and refused to get out.

Plaskett, 54, a 20-year department veteran, shot Villegas once in the wrist, police said. Plaskett is on paid leave pending a departmental review of the shooting.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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