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‘Remember them’: Vigil held in honor of Highway Patrol trooper killed on duty

Hundreds of people Thursday night raised candles to the sky at Allegiant Stadium in honor of Nevada Highway Patrol troopers Michael Abbate and Alberto Felix who were killed in the line of duty last week.

On Nov. 30, Abbate and Felix stopped to check on a driver whose vehicle had stopped on the side of Interstate 15, near D Street, around 3:25 a.m. Police accused 46-year-old Jemarcus Williams of driving by and striking both troopers with his vehicle and fleeing the scene.

Williams has been charged with two counts each of DUI, failing to stop at the scene of a crash, reckless driving resulting in death, and misdemeanor counts of speeding, failing to properly approach a traffic incident and failing to decrease speed.

Uniformed first responders from several Southern Nevada agencies joined members of the community in the stadium parking lot. A large American flag hung from the ladders of two fire engines. Photos of Abbate and Felix alternated on Allegiant’s large video board.

“Unfortunately we’re good at it,” Alexander Cuevas, secretary of the Injured Police Officers Fund, said of the fund organizing vigils. “It’s sad to say that we are good at it because we’ve had so much practice in recent years.”

Abbate, 37, had been with Nevada Highway Patrol since 2013 and was promoted to sergeant in November.

Nevada Highway Patrol Lt. and President of the Injured Police Officers Fund Chelsea Stuenkel spoke about both troopers. She worked alongside Abbate for the last year prior to his promotion to sergeant.

“Mike was one of the most kind, intelligent and laid-back people I’ve ever known,” Stuenkel said.

While she did not know Felix as well, Stuenkel recalled Felix’s “Good morning” greeting to her when she would arrive to start her day and Felix would be ending his graveyard shift.

“Trooper Felix was a beacon of warmth and kindness,” Stuenkel said. “His smile could light up a room and his gentle demeanor touched the lives of all who cross his path.”

Felix, 54, joined the department in 2019 after serving in the Air Force.

Nevada System of Higher Education Regent Byron Brooks said both troopers worked as instructors for the College of Southern Nevada’s Southern Desert Regional Police Academy. Abbate was an emergency vehicle operations course instructor, and Felix assisted with DUI training.

Each speaker took a moment to honor the victims of the Wednesday shooting at UNLV that left three people dead. Organizers postponed the vigil to Thursday night after the shooting.

“We must strive to hold onto the light that these remarkable souls brought to the university and their contributions to higher education,” Brooks said.

Brooks called the three killed — Cha Jan “Jerry” Chang, Patricia Navarro Velez and a third professor whose name has not yet been released — “vibrant souls.”

The troopers’ wives, Vanessa Abbate and Arlene Felix started the candle lighting that spread to those seated and standing. After a moment of silence, the Nevada Highway Patrol honor guard escorted the families down the center aisle.

“I hope that people are able to see their faces on such an amazing platform and say ‘I will remember them,’” Cuevas said. “I will help their legacy live on.”

To donate to the Injured Police Officers Fund, visit ipof.vegas.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com.

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