He was a good man in the wrong place, at the wrong time, who tried to do the right thing.
Joseph Wilcox, the last victim of the June 8 shootings that also claimed the lives of two Las Vegas police officers, was honored as a hero Sunday.
Law enforcement came in numbers to give him a warm farewell at his funeral. Las Vegas police officers stood on either side of the door at the entrance to the large chapel that was filled at Palm Mortuary, 1325 N. Main St., that holds 450.
The bagpipes honor guard group was practicing in a room off to the side as guests entered, filling the facility with the sad notes played for all fallen officers.
Steve Withey, associate pastor with the GV Christian Center, officiated at the ceremony. He opened with a prayer and a reading from the Bible — Psalm 23, known as the shepherds’ psalm, speaks of fearing no evil in the valley of the shadow of death.
“We’re here to honor him for the hero he was,” one Metro officer was overheard saying to a guest. “He gave everything.”
“Joseph Wilcox made the decision to put his life in danger to help hundreds of others who were inside that store,” said Sheriff Doug Gillespie, who gave the eulogy.
Gillespie asked everyone to consider what they would do if faced with danger. “That’s what we train for, the what ifs,” he said.
Wilcox was not a police officer or a firefighter, Gillespie said, adding, “He was a man who cared about others.”
“His actions definitely allowed other citizens to leave that store and get out of harm’s way,” Gillespie said.
Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin spoke about community support for Wilcox’s family.
“You’re going to need help,” he said to the family, adding he was not referring to money. “There are many people across the valley who will come to help you.”
Coffin said Wilcox was awarded a posthumous Medal of Valor from the City Council. Then he touched on other issues.
“It’s been controversial that Joseph carried a weapon,” he said. “And he used it properly”
“Joseph followed the rules,” Coffin said — Wilcox was doing the right thing, even giving a warning before shooting. Unfortunately, he didn’t know “the monster had two heads.”
The family of Joseph Wilcox asked not to be interviewed by news media Saturday, but they released a statement shortly after the service:
“On behalf of our entire family, we would like to thank everyone who has supported us during this extremely difficult time. The day we lost Joseph, our lives changed forever. Each day is difficult; but the overwhelming love, words of encouragement, and financial support you have graciously given us, has made this life changing moment a little less difficult.”
“In this time of sadness, we have met so many great members of the community and emergency responders who have shown us compassion that is beyond words. Our hearts ache, but we are not alone — our thoughts are with the family and friends of Officer Beck and Officer Soldo as they too try to continue their lives without their loved ones.”
When Debra Wilcox said she did not have the money to pay for a funeral for her son, the Southern Nevada community that was shaken by the day’s violence stepped up and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the families of the victims.
Withey described Wilcox as a superhero to his family, and a fun-loving man. He spoke of Wilcox starting epic silly string battles at family holidays, relentless tickling and spontaneous hugging.
The Las Vegas man has been called a quiet guy with an ironic sense of humor.
And Wilcox had a strong protective capacity — after the tragic events unfolded two Sundays ago, his family told the Review-Journal that he carried a handgun to defend himself and others from “people like that.”
“Stand like Joseph stood,” Withey challenged those gathered. “Show courage like Joseph showed. Stand and face the monsters, wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads. Let the light within you shine, and the darkness will not prevail.”
Wilcox, who had often told his mother he wanted to be a police officer, was celebrated with a police honor guard ceremony inside the mortuary. The honor guard and Gillespie presented his family with a folded U.S. flag, a salute and an embrace after the speakers concluded and a video presentation brought many in the room to tears.
Wilcox was in an aisle checking out at an east valley Wal-Mart when wannabe revolutionaries Jerad and Amanda Miller entered the store in the late morning and opened fire.
The husband-and-wife duo began their rampage at a nearby CiCi’s Pizza, where two policemen having lunch were slain — officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck were laid to rest last week.
When Jerad Miller entered the store and fired a shot into the air, Wilcox decided to stand up to him. But the Las Vegas man did not know when he drew his weapon and approached Miller from behind that Amanda Miller was only a short distance away. Police said she shot and killed him.
Joseph Wilcox, 31, will be cremated.
Contact Wesley Juhl at email@example.com or 702-383-0381. Find him on Twitter: @WesJuhl.