James Molinaro Jr. came out to CiCi's pizzeria Monday night to say farewell to two friends: Las Vegas police officers who were ambushed Sunday as they ate lunch at the pizza shop a few miles east of downtown.
Molinaro joined several hundred Las Vegas residents who flocked to an evening vigil in 110-degree heat to pay their respects to the two police officers – and to say thanks. For this crowd, many of whom are residents of the working-class neighborhood, Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were the guys on patrol, officers who nabbed speeders and made sure their homes weren't burglarized.
For Molinaro, they were two buddies he's known for years.
"They were good cops. Period," said Molinaro, who volunteers at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's northeast area command center. "Their level of professionalism was out of sight. There is just no reason why two guys having lunch should be ambushed, executed. It doesn't make sense."
Just 30 hours earlier, Jerad and Amanda Miller shot and killed the officers, setting off a bloody spree that eventually left five dead, including themselves.
Outside CiCi's pizzeria, which remained closed Monday, an impromptu collection of roses, balloons, candles and personal messages grew by the hour. "Alyn gave his all," one note said. "He took the bullet for all of us."
A church brought in a band that played songs as people raised their hands. A minister thanked the two officers for protecting the neighborhood.
As the minister talked, Amanda Brown hung her head in prayer. A resident here since 1994, the electronics buyer said she felt like she knew the officers, but she never spoke a word to them.
"I live right over there," she said, pointing east. "I saw them and guys just like them out on the street as I went to work and when I came home. I looked at them in my rearview mirror and I never thought to say thank you. But I am now. Because this could have happened to any of us." She paused. "I support those who support me."
As the band played, Michele Lis stood with her three young children. Behind her was a yogurt shop and a gun store. "I grew up on this side of town, and I just wanted to come back and show my love for who these men were," she said, holding a small U.S. flag and clutching her son.
"I didn't know these men personally. I didn't have to."
Nearby, car washer Hamilton Schutt stood with a friend. The 19-year-old said he felt a personal obligation to attend the vigil.
"In my life, police have been very close to me – I've known some of them," he said. "How could two people so senselessly cut down two lives for some sick reason of starting a revolution, or whatever they were trying to do. It's heartbreaking."
As he spoke, a siren wailed from a nearby intersection. At once heads turned.