Returning home after a weekend tragedy in Las Vegas

August 21, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The bodies of two Visalia men killed in Las Vegas over the weekend in a carjacking and traffic accident, returned home Wednesday evening.

33-year-old Jesus Magdelano and his brother-in-law 31-year-old Felix Brandon Cruz were in Las Vegas for Magdelano's bachelor party. Magdaleno was a CHP officer, Cruz was a realtor. Both were well liked in the Visalia Community.

Police say the men were killed during a car-jacking that started outside the Flamingo Hotel. Police say Cruz was loading luggage into Magdelano's truck when the suspect, 29-year-old James Montgomery jumped behind the wheel and sped away with Cruz still in the truck bed. Magdelano chased the truck and eventually got onto the truck bed to help. Authorities say Montgomery ran a red light, and collided with an SUV and a pole, throwing both men off the truck.

Magdelano was killed in the accident. Cruz died later in a Las Vegas hospital.

On Wednesday, the community showed their support and respect to the two men's families, as the bodies were driven home to Visalia.

What was meant to be a small law enforcement escort grew into motorcade miles long. About a hundred local law enforcement cruisers and emergency vehicles joined the escort to drive the families and the two men's bodies to Miller's funeral home.

Many from the community lined the streets waving flags and signs to show their respect.

"I went to high school with Jesse, I thought it was really important to come out here ad show our support," Sonya Briseno said. Briseno graduated with Magdelano from Tulare Western in 1998.

Many of Cruz's friends also lined the streets to the funeral home.

"We just kind of grew up. I just knew him as a very funny guy, he was well liked," Rena Camarillo said. She graduated with Brandon from Orosi High School in 2000.

"It's heartwarming," she said about the turnout. "it just goes to show you how loved these guys were. There are friends and family here. Strangers I'm sure are out here."

She was right about that. Many had never met Magdelano or Cruz, but felt the need to show respect because a local man in uniform lost his life. Rose Marie Valero's son is a California Highway Patrol Officer in Barstow and says the law enforcement community is like a family.

"My son sent me a text and asked to come out here out of respect for the fallen officer," Valero said. "I'm out here out of respect for law enforcement."

"I didn't know him personally but anyone that serves our state, we should have a lot of pride for," James Conquest said. Conquest is from Exeter but used to serve in law enforcement in the East Coast.

"The county should build a tie and bond with the law enforcement," he said.

James Montgomery is being charged with a host of crimes, including murder, kidnapping and burglary. He pleaded not guilty in a Las Vegas Courtroom Wednesday. He says he can't remember anything about the moments leading up to the accident and the death of the two Visalia men.


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