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A 7-Eleven on Lake Mead Parkway and Center Street is seen in Henderson on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Kevin Mendiola Jr., 22, was fatally shot at the store on Thanksgiving Day. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Elipagephoto

How a 'Bonnie and Clyde' rampage unfolded on Thanksgiving Day

This early account of an 11-hour crime spree spanning two states is based on police documents, court filings, official statements from authorities, interviews with survivors and social media posts

‘Bonnie and Clyde situation:’ A trio’s rampage in Nevada and Arizona

Inside the small, white chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard, Shawn McDonnell and Kayleigh Lewis promised to spend the rest of their lives together.

The union would mark the beginning of what Clark County’s district attorney has described as “a Bonnie and Clyde situation.”

After the Nov. 7 ceremony, the newlyweds hit the road for a weekslong joyride across the country with McDonnell’s younger brother, Christopher, a 28-year-old felon out on parole for assaulting a family member.

From left: Christopher McDonnell, Shawn McDonnell and Kayleigh Lewis. (Henderson police and La ...
From left: Christopher McDonnell, Shawn McDonnell and Kayleigh Lewis. (Henderson police and La Paz County Sheriff's Office)

The trio, from Tyler, Texas, would travel as far as Washington, D.C., before returning west toward Las Vegas. But somewhere along the way, before reaching Nevada, according to District Attorney Steve Wolfson, they crafted a plan for a series of shootings.

“I would compare the crime spree to a Bonnie and Clyde situation,” Wolfson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s incredible how many people they shot at.”

An exact motive has not been released by authorities, who have said they are pursuing possible terrorism and hate crime charges against the suspects, but one victim said the shooters showed no remorse.

“I stared down the barrel of his gun, and I swear it was like time slowed down,” said Andrew Muniz, one of at least 11 people targeted in what were primarily vehicle-to-vehicle shootings in Henderson. “It’s like what you would see in the movies.”

The two-state rampage began 37 minutes into Thanksgiving Day just outside Las Vegas city limits in Henderson, a suburb that touts itself as one of the safest cities in the country, and would come to an end 11 hours later only after a chase, a rollover crash and a shooting involving law enforcement officials in Arizona.

In their path, authorities have said, the Texans left behind a trail of bullet casings scattered across at least 11 crime scenes between Southern Nevada and rural Arizona, nearly 20 victims and a family forced to plan an unexpected funeral for a 22-year-old North Las Vegas man who had a bright future ahead of him in union construction work.

This early account of the crime spree and its ripple effect is based on police documents, court filings, official statements from authorities, interviews with survivors and social media posts.

Convenience store killing

In less than 20 minutes, the trio had opened fire from their vehicle into three cars. Those inside escaped uninjured, and 911 calls began to pour in with descriptions of a black Toyota Camry.

By around 12:50 a.m., the Camry had pulled into the parking lot of the 7-Eleven at 870 E. Lake Mead Parkway. There, they found a typical scene for a 24-hour convenience store.

Kevin Mendiola Jr., his girlfriend and his brother decided to stop in for a drink before a late-night drive around Lake Las Vegas.

Brooke Spangler sat in a car while her father, Seth, who had just gotten off work, ran in to grab a snack.

Craig Fletcher had just made a purchase and was walking back to his vehicle when he passed a woman with a black eye and a man with a tattooed face resembling a skull.

Cars zoomed by on Lake Mead Parkway, including a red sedan driven by Dana Johnson, who was completing a nearby Uber drop-off for his passenger.

Fletcher had just gotten into his car when he noticed the man with the facial tattoos — later identified as Christopher McDonnell — standing in front of his vehicle. The man was armed.

When Fletcher saw the handgun, he dialed 911 and sped out of the parking lot, according to an arrest report for the tattooed suspect. But Fletcher stayed close by and watched from his vehicle as the carnage unfolded.

At 12:53 a.m., the report states, Christopher and Shawn McDonnell opened fire outside the 7-Eleven.

The attack would span just six minutes but leave Mendiola, a former Legacy High School football player, dead and four others injured, including Seth Spangler and Mendiola’s girlfriend, Jayde Libby, and brother, Christevin.

In this September 2018 photo, Kevin Mendiola Jr. poses with his custom-built pickup truck. Mend ...
In this September 2018 photo, Kevin Mendiola Jr. poses with his custom-built pickup truck. Mendiola was shot and killed inside his truck in a random attack outside a 7-Eleven in Henderson on Thanksgiving morning. His girlfriend and younger brother also were injured in the shooting but are expected to survive. (Facebook)

“Kevin was loved by everybody. That was his story,” Legacy football coach John Isola said. “He didn’t have enemies, and that’s a beautiful thing. He was a very respectful young man.”

In a Facebook post written Tuesday evening, Mendiola’s father, Kevin Sr., said both Libby and his youngest son, who underwent surgery, had been discharged from the hospital.

Mendiola’s father declined to comment for this story, but in a message to the Review-Journal, Angel-Cathleen Cabrera said: “My cousin was one of the most hardworking individuals I knew. Family always came first. I know my boy is flying high up there, watching down on all of us.”

Shortly after the first barrage of gunfire, the tattooed gunman approached Brooke Spangler, who was in a car with her 1-year-old daughter. The young mother begged the gunman to spare her and her baby.

For unknown reasons, the gunman walked away and said, “You’re not going to die today.”

‘The most horrifying sound’

Vehicles drive on Lake Mead Parkway near the entrance of Lake Las Vegas in Henderson on Wednesd ...
Vehicles drive on Lake Mead Parkway near the entrance of Lake Las Vegas in Henderson on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Elipagephoto

The trio fled the 7-Eleven, toward Lake Las Vegas, before Henderson police arrived.

Near the entrance to the retirement community surrounding the lake, the black Camry pulled next to a red sedan.

Muniz, a 28-year-old California resident visiting for the holiday weekend, was scrolling through his phone in the back seat of his Uber when he heard someone scream, “Hey!”

When Muniz looked up, he saw a man hanging out of the window of a black sedan. A gun was pointed in his direction. And then came the gunfire.

His Uber driver, Johnson, slammed on the brakes, causing the car to spin out as he yelled, “I’m hit! I’m hit!”

Johnson was struck in the arm, and Muniz suffered a graze wound to his shoulder from one of the bullets.

Muniz called 911 while Johnson sped away in the opposite direction of the black sedan, toward a sea of blue and red lights at the 7-Eleven. Johnson pulled into the parking lot for help.

Johnson and the four other victims injured in the shooting outside the convenience store were taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

Muniz stayed behind with Johnson’s car and waited for an officer to take his statement. It was cold. He wanted to go home.

He surveyed the small parking lot in disbelief. He saw pools of blood and the front of Mendiola’s pickup truck wrapped around a light pole. It must have crashed during the shooting, he thought.

This photo posted to Facebook by Kevin Mendiola Sr. shows the family's growing collection of fl ...
This photo posted to Facebook by Kevin Mendiola Sr. shows the family's growing collection of flowers and photos inside their home to honor Kevin Jr., who was shot and killed in a random attack on Thanksgiving morning outside a 7-Eleven in Henderson. (Facebook)

On the ground, next to the pickup, lay Mendiola’s body. He’d never been that close to a body. He wanted to look away but couldn’t.

And then, as he stood on the edge of the 7-Eleven parking lot, a car screeched to a halt in the lot. Mendiola’s parents rushed out, crying for their son.

“The most traumatizing part of the whole night was when the family showed up,” Muniz said this week. “It was the most horrifying sound to hear a grown man cry and scream like that.”

Mendiola will be laid to rest in Las Vegas this month.

“We are devastated but we Know You Are (in) Gods Arms right now,” Kevin Mendiola Sr. wrote on Facebook on Thanksgiving Day. “Love you my Boy. I’ll take care of your Brother, Sister and Mom while you keep watch from up above.”

The capture

Kayleigh Lewis and Shawn McDonnell pose together in this photo posted to Facebook in November 2 ...
Kayleigh Lewis and Shawn McDonnell pose together in this photo posted to Facebook in November 2014. Six years later, the couple, along with Shawn McDonnell's younger brother, Christopher, have been identified by Nevada and Arizona authorities as suspects in a two-state shooting rampage that unfolded on Thanksgiving Day 2020. (Facebook)

Little is known about Shawn McDonnell, 30, and Lewis, 25, who married at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in downtown Las Vegas. But public posts on their social media profiles, including childhood photos and pictures of their pets, do not raise any obvious red flags.

The two began dating as early as 2014, according to photos posted to Lewis’ Facebook page. One relative commented to Lewis in April 2014: “Kirk said he really likes Shawn and we can use more quiet people in our family lol!”

Meanwhile, in January 2018, the younger McDonnell was convicted in Anderson County, Texas, of felony assault, according to the Smith County Community Supervision and Corrections Department.

He was sentenced to four years in a state prison and was released on parole in August, about three months before the crime spree. His sentence was to end in February.

Around 1:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving, authorities put out an alert to law enforcement in California and Arizona to be on the lookout for possible active shooters in a black Toyota Camry with a spare tire on the rear passenger side. About seven hours later, authorities in Bouse, Arizona, a rural area about 200 miles south of Las Vegas, began receiving 911 calls from victims reporting that their cars had been shot at.

According to identical arrest reports for the newlyweds, the trio carried out at least five more vehicle-to-vehicle shootings in Bouse before they were spotted on state Route 72 by an Arizona Highway Patrol trooper, prompting a short chase before the Camry veered off the highway and rolled over onto its roof.

The trooper and one other officer opened fire at the vehicle and struck Shawn McDonnell after he raised his weapon, according to the reports.

Christopher McDonnell was flown to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, the same hospital where the victims were taken, for injuries he suffered in the crash, while his brother and sister-in-law were hospitalized in Arizona.

The Texans face charges of murder, attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon and discharging a gun into a vehicle.

A month ago, Shawn McDonnell and Lewis vowed to spend the rest of their lives together. Now, if convicted of murder, the newlyweds and their alleged accomplice could spend the rest of their lives in prison — or be sentenced to death.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Sabrina Schnur contributed to this report.

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