Monday, June 8, 2015 | 10:30 p.m.
Kneeling before a skinny sapling under the baking Las Vegas sun, Debra Wilcox pressed her palm onto her lips and transferred a kiss over a freshly installed plaque memorializing her dead son.
“I’ve spent the last year breaking down and crying every day,” Wilcox said at a tree dedication marking the first anniversary of her son’s slaying by a pair of anti-government extremists who went on a shooting rampage in northeast Las Vegas, gunning down Joseph Wilcox and a pair of Metro Police officers in broad daylight. “It feels good when people tell me they remember Joseph.”
Last year's attack began when a husband-and-wife team of killers approached officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo at a Cici's Pizza restaurant during the officers' lunch break, shooting them execution-style. Joseph Wilcox, a legally armed civilian, was killed minutes later when he tried to draw his gun to confront the armed couple entering a nearby Walmart. The assailants, Jerad and Amanda Miller, died during a shootout with police inside the store.
At Monday’s event, about 300 community members and elected officials gathered to dedicate three saplings and a set of corresponding plaques to each of the victims at a police substation where the officers worked. Two of the Japanese blueberry trees were installed in the parking lot of the substation as a living homage to Soldo and Beck, while Joseph Wilcox’s tree was planted inside an adjacent park near Pecos Road and Cheyenne Avenue.
Another plaque, meanwhile, is being installed inside the pizza parlor where the officers were gunned down.
“We didn’t just lose two officers — we lost two family men and fathers,” Officer Troy Nicol told the crowd, his voice breaking. “They had a way about them that made them great warriors.”
Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who represents the district where the shooting occurred, thanked Wilcox for “doing something many of us … would not be willing to do.”
About a dozen of Wilcox’s friends and relatives attended the event, some donning T-shirts printed with his name and portrait. Metro officials said the officers’ families couldn’t attend.
Long lines formed in front of Wilcox's loved ones as people waited to pay their respects.
“Take care of yourself. God bless,” one woman told Debra Wilcox as she sobbed and nodded.
“This entire ceremony meant the world to me,” said Joseph Wilcox’s younger sister, C.J. Foster, 19. “I wanted a way to connect to Joe, and I feel like this tree is a way to do that.”