Oregon woman held in Las Vegas Strip sidewalk rampage drove with license suspended

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - An Oregon woman who killed one woman and injured at least 35 pedestrians when she plowed her car into crowds on a Las Vegas Strip sidewalk on Sunday evening was driving on a suspended license, authorities said on Monday.

Lakeisha N. Holloway, 24, who was homeless and had been living in her sedan with her toddler, gave herself up to officers a short distance from the scene of the carnage. She parked her car and told a valet to call 911, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sheriff Joe Lombardo told a news conference.

Surveillance video from the scene supports the police assertion that Holloway drove into pedestrians as “an intentional act,” Lombardo said.

He told reporters Holloway made a statement to police explaining her motive. He declined to relate what she said, other than that the incident did not appear to be a militant attack.

Sally Ridenour, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said Holloway was driving with a suspended license.

“Her license was suspended by the Oregon DMV in 2012 and was also suspended by (Portland’s) Multnomah County in 2013 and has not been reinstated,” Ridenour said.

U.S. law enforcement has been on heightened alert since 14 people died in a Dec. 2 shooting massacre in San Bernardino, California, by a married couple inspired by Islamic extremists.

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Sunday’s incident occurred as the Miss Universe beauty pageant was underway at a nearby hotel.

The scene unfolded with Holloway repeatedly driving her 1996 Oldsmobile into pedestrians on the crowded walkway, banging into newspaper stands and poles, Lombardo said.

Bystanders pounded on the car window and tried to open the door in a futile attempt to stop her, he said.

Justin Cochrane, a tourist who was having dinner on The Strip, told CNN the sedan, its windshield cracked, barreled past him. He said the driver then swerved to avoid a truck before accelerating back onto the sidewalk.

“It was mayhem, and it was very intentional,” Cochrane told CNN. “People were flying. This child I saw, literally, hit. And the sound, I’ll never forget.”

Jessica Valenzuela, 32, of Buckeye, Arizona, an outer suburb of Phoenix, died from injuries after she was struck, the Clark County Coroner-Medical Examiner’s office said.

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Other victims included visitors from Colorado, Florida, Mexico and Quebec, Canada.

Clark County District Attorney Steven Wolfson said his office planned to bring charges of murder with use of a deadly weapon and other counts against Holloway, who was held without bail.

Holloway, who is from Oregon and had been driving a car registered in Portland, had been living in the car in Las Vegas for about a week with her 3-year-old daughter, Lombardo said. The child was in the car when Holloway drove into the pedestrians.

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University Medical Center was treating three patients listed as critical and two in serious condition, spokeswoman Danita Cohen said in an email. An 11-year-old was among the injured, she said.

Holloway’s child, who was unhurt in the incident, is in protective custody, Lombardo said.

The sheriff said investigators were trying to piece together Holloway’s background.

In the spring of 2012 Holloway received an award from a career-mentoring nonprofit in Portland for being a role model for high school students, according to The Skanner, a community website and newspaper published in the Pacific Northwest.

The story recounts Holloway describing her mother as having “turned to alcohol, leaving Lakeisha to fend for herself.” Holloway was homeless during her freshman year in high school, according to the newspaper, but had since graduated.

On her Facebook page, Holloway indicated that she had studied at Portland Community College.

The Oregon DOT’s Ridenour noted that generally drivers cannot obtain a license in another state if their license has been suspended. That is because licensing departments across the country share information, as do law enforcement agencies.

Additional reporting by Alicia Avila, David Becker and Rollo Ross in Las Vegas, Curtis Skinner in San Francisco, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Ian Simpson in Washington; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Gareth Jones, Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler