Friday, June 4, 1999 | 11:02 a.m.
He smokes Marlboro Reds and doesn't drink much. He has been having "on and off" problems with his girlfriend. Recently he tried to sell his shotgun to a local bartender.
Zane Floyd, 23, the alleged gunman in Thursday's four-fatality shooting at a Las Vegas Albertson's grocery store, was described by friends and neighbors as both "a nice guy" and "scary."
Floyd, arrested Thursday and charged with four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, is a former U.S. Marine from a middle-class neighborhood, a former security guard and most recently a bar bouncer.
Early Thursday morning, sporting camouflage clothes, a shaved head and a goatee, Floyd allegedly opened fire with a pump-action shotgun on a random group of employees and customers in a grocery store a few blocks from his house. He chased down some of his fleeing victims before shooting them, police said.
"He was the sweetest, most polite open-the-door kind of gentleman," Alicia Reber, a former high school friend, said.
"He definitely had a violent streak," said Reber's brother, Nate, 18, who also hung out with Floyd when the alleged killer was a teenager. "He's just not the kind of guy to do this," said Anthony Lopez, a friend who recently worked at a local bar with Floyd. Police said Thursday they had not identified a motive for the shooting but had ruled out robbery.
Friends, family, co-workers and neighbors offered a puzzling picture of a man who is to some "nice" or "reserved" and to others "scary."
But no matter which impression of Floyd acquaintances reported, none were able to say definitively what drove him over the edge. Some said that he was having problems with a girlfriend, others speculated that he was upset about losing his job as a security guard recently, and still others said it was "completely out of character."
Floyd worked Tuesday nights as a bouncer at Sneakers bar -- a small sports bar wedged into the corner of a strip mall on East Tropicana. Inside, a handful of regulars patronize the sports-pennant- and TV-filled bar, and college students fill it up on Tuesday nights, Tom Smith, manager of the bar, said.
Floyd had worked there about a month and was well-liked by co-workers, Smith said.
"Everybody knew him, but he was just one of those reserved guys," Smith said.
Several other bouncers at Sneakers considered Floyd a friend -- and said he seemed fine during his shift Tuesday night.
"There was an extra camaraderie because some of us are soldiers," Tony Marquez, a fellow bouncer, said. "I'm ex-Army, he's ex-Marines, we are tight ... The last time I saw him was Tuesday night and he was fine."
"He wasn't upset at all," Kenneth Ascencio, the head bouncer at Sneakers, said.
"Me and him and (another bouncer) hung out every single day. We went shooting at America Shooters (shooting range) and hung out at the bars and went to movies -- we were best friends," Ascencio said. "There was nothing wrong that I could see."
On Wednesday afternoon around 4 p.m., Floyd came into Sneakers on his off hours. He slipped into a vinyl booth at the uncrowded bar and ordered several Coca-Colas.
"I saw him sitting there and said 'hi,' " Smith said. "Didn't notice anything unusual."
Floyd stayed for about an hour and watched part of a baseball game and made four or five telephone calls.
Frustrated in bar
"He seemed frustrated that he couldn't reach whomever he was calling," said a person who was in the bar and asked not to be identified.
Sometime Wednesday evening, Floyd also stopped in at the offices of Affirmative Security to pick up his final paycheck. He had worked as a security guard for Affirmative until May 14.
Friends said he worked the graveyard shift as a guard at Timbers bar on West Flamingo. They said he quit that job because he though he should be earning more than $7 an hour.
Laura Sellers, the owner of Affirmative, said he was fired. She would not say why Floyd was fired but said he picked up his final paycheck Wednesday night.
"He was agitated last night, a little bit more sarcastic," Sellers said Thursday. During his work at the firm, she said, "there was not one incident of aggression, violence or abrupt behavior."
But Ascencio, who has known Floyd for about six months, said that Floyd was in line to take over as head bouncer at Sneakers in a few weeks because Ascencio plans to leave town.
"He was outgoing, he had no worries -- nothing," Ascencio said. "He was going to be head manager."
"The Zane everyone saw on TV (Thursday) is not the Zane we know," Marquez said. "Something bad had to have happened to him last night for him to snap like this."
Marquez and Ascencio said it was not likely that Floyd was using drugs, and couldn't say whether he might have been upset over a possible dispute with his girlfriend.
"He has a girlfriend, but I don't know anything about her," Marquez said.
Another friend, who worked with Floyd at Timbers, said that Floyd had problems with his girlfriend, whom none of his friends could identify.
"He said he was having on and off problems with his girlfriend," Anthony Lopez, a former bartender at Timbers, said. "He appeared normal.
"He wanted to sell me the shotgun he probably used in the massacre at Albertson's," Lopez said about a conversation the two had this spring at the bar, after Floyd purchased the shotgun from Craven's Haven Gun Shop in January.
"I am weirded out because I like Zane ... We spent a lot of quality time together those nights. He was the kind of guy I would invite over for a barbecue.
"But he wasn't a drinker. As a bartender I got him drunk twice on Three Wise Men shots and draft beer. He smoked Marlboro Red cigarettes and didn't drive. He said that many members of his family were killed in car accidents and therefore he didn't want to drive.
"He also said he was having on and off problems with his girlfriend. I spent many hours with him as he was the guard on duty at the bar I worked ... He was an armed guard carrying a .32 caliber semi-automatic. I am flipped because at any time he could have flipped and murdered me and the patrons at my bar," Lopez said.
"The family is in shock right now," Marquez said after emerging from the family's house Thursday evening.
Michael and Valerie Floyd, Zane's parents, stayed inside their half of the duplex throughout Thursday as friends and public defenders went in and out. Michael works for EG&G Special Projects as a fire inspector.
"I can tell you they feel really bad for the families of the victims, and that they are thinking about the victims," Marquez said.
Cathy Downey, a next-door neighbor, has lived in her house near West Oakey since 1957. She has known Floyd's parents since they moved into the neighborhood 11 years ago, and described them as good neighbors.
Downey recounted the time Floyd and his father helped repair her fence after police knocked it down while chasing a suspect.
"I just saw him playing basketball last night," Downey said.
Over the years, she saw Floyd around the neighborhood and watched him grow from a boy into a Marine.
"He was a clean-cut, polite young man. He was always very helpful," Downey said.
As Downey stood on her sidewalk she gestured at children frolicking on the playground of Vegas Verdes Elementary School across the street.
"That's exactly the kind of thing Zane used to do," she said, shaking her head in disbelief.
Downey's 14-year-old grandson, J.R. Schmal, knew Zane four years ago. "I used to play basketball with him. He was like a normal kid, he wasn't like that (violent). He wouldn't even fight when I knew him."
But a former friend of Zane's, 18-year-old Nate Reber, has different memories of a younger Zane Floyd.
"He was always frustrated about something. He'd kick (expletive) when he was mad, yell at his parents 'I'm sick of this (expletive), I'm tired of living here!' He'd flip on us, throw me on the ground. He definitely had a violent streak." Reber said.
Reber said that Floyd used to collect knives as a kid, and that the two of them stole small things from stores occasionally.
When Nate saw him Wednesday, Floyd, dressed in black, was walking down the street. His appearance startled Reber so much that he didn't feel comfortable even saying hello.
"He looked psycho yesterday. He looked like a skinhead with his head and eyebrows shaved," Nate Reber said. "Scary."
Alicia Reber, 22, has known Floyd since junior high school. The Floyd she described was nothing like her brother's friend.
"I don't know what would compel him to do something like this," Alicia Reber said. "He used to take me to school in the morning. I was in 10th grade, he was 11th. He'd pick me up, take me to breakfast -- McDonald's is on the way to Clark (High School).
"I am totally blown away by this. He was the sweetest, most polite open-the-door kind of gentleman. We were friends," Alicia Reber said.
Talking about life
During their morning drives, Reber says Floyd would talk to her about his life and his father.
"He just didn't get along with his father, you know how you are when you're growing up and you don't get along with your parents," Alicia Reber said.
One difference between father and son may have been their hobbies. Downey said Floyd's father loves the outdoors.
"His dad was into sports: hunting, fishing -- they had the boat -- and they were always going camping," Downey said.
Alicia Reber doesn't think Floyd shared the same interests as his father.
"I knew his dad was like that, but I didn't think Zane was," she said. "He had his own unique way of doing things. The way he expressed himself, he was so creative, like he could be a writer," Alicia Reber said.
She had the impression that Floyd believed he didn't measure up to his father's expectations.
"It seemed he was always trying to please his father," Alicia Reber said. "Every day he had something different to say about his dad. That's why I think he joined the military; to become a leader, to prove something to (his dad)."
Floyd served four years in the Marine Corps., assigned to the First Force Service Support Group at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He trained as a machine gunner and was honorably discharged as a lance corporal in July 1998, base spokesman 2nd Lt. Jeff Landis said.
While conflict with his father may have influenced Floyd's decision to join the military, Alicia Reber believes Floyd enlisted because he wanted to change his life.
"He would say, 'I've got to do something with my life.' He didn't feel like he was satisfied with it, and he needed to do more," Alicia Reber said.
Alicia Reber said Floyd wasn't popular in high school and that he and his friends were nondescript, almost invisible.
"They were the quiet (types); I don't want to say nerdy. They weren't outcasts, they were just there. He blended in. If you asked someone, 'Who is Zane?' They'd say, 'I don't know.' He was just a face in the crowd.
"He wasn't a troublemaker in school. He was real mellow, calm," she said.
"He was kind of chubby with long hair, a heavy metal, stoner kind of guy. He wore Metallica T-shirts, combat boots and jeans and drove a Mustang," Alicia Reber said.
Alicia Reber lost touch with Zane after he joined the Marines. The last time she saw him was almost a year ago, right after he was discharged.
"He was just the same, with a little more discipline and more fit. He had more of an attitude adjustment in a good way. He seemed more respectful," Reber said. "When I saw his picture on TV, he was scary."
After the Marines, Floyd enrolled at Community College of Southern Nevada, taking two classes during the fall 1998 semester, according to college records. He withdrew from one of the classes before the end of the semester. Officials would not say what classes he took.
Floyd began school in the Clark County School District as a sixth grader in March 1988 -- at Madison Elementary School. He also attended Dell Robison and Hyde Park middle schools and the Southern Nevada Vocational Technical Center. The 1990 Hyde Park yearbook shows him as a smiling eighth grader with shoulder-length hair.
He left Vo-Tech, a magnet trade school, in December 1992, which was the middle of his junior year. Vo-Tech counselor Art Carlin said he couldn't remember anything remarkable about Floyd.
"He was one of those students who melt into the background -- if he had been the other way, I would have seen him and talked to him a lot more. I don't remember him having any problems. He was probably just one of those kids who left when the bell rang."
Sun reportersJace Radke and Benjamin Grove contributed to this story. The Associated Press also contributed to this story.
"The Zane everyone saw on TV (Thursday) is not the Zane we know. Something bad had to have happened to him last night for him to snap like this."Tony MarquezBOUNCER
"He was always frustrated about something."Nate ReberFORMER FRIEND OF ZANE FLOYD