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Troopers’ loved ones join grieving families at anti-DUI event: ‘We are going through this together’

Updated April 22, 2024 - 12:26 pm

It hasn’t been easy for Arlene Felix and her children since her husband was one of two Nevada Highway Patrol officers killed in the line of duty in November.

“Not very well,” Felix said when asked how the family has been doing since Trooper Alberto Felix and Sgt. Michael Abbate died after they were struck by a suspected drunk driver on Interstate 15 on Nov. 30.

The still-grieving family was among dozens of people, including many who also have lost loved ones to DUI crashes, to attend the nonprofit Stop DUI advocacy group’s Heroes and Handcuffs ceremony on Sunday at the Nevada Highway Patrol’s Southern Command offices on West Sunset Road near the 215 Beltway and Decatur Boulevard.

Being among other people who have suffered a similar loss helps with the grief, said Alyssa Belle Felix, the 20-year-old daughter of the late Trooper Felix.

“It was also extremely hard, but at the same time very heartwarming, in a sense, because I can see we aren’t alone in this and that we are going through this together,” she said of Sunday’s event, which gave victims’ families a chance to meet with police officers who routinely make DUI arrests in the Las Vegas Valley.

Felix’s son, Aries Felix, 9, was one of eight people who have lost relatives to a DUI crash to present a set of handcuffs — each set bore the name of their loved one who was killed — to one of eight police officers who made a significant number of DUI arrests in 2023.

In total, the eight police officers recognized made a combined 588 DUI arrests in 2023, Stop DUI said.

Aries presented a pair of handcuffs with Trooper Felix’s name on it to fellow Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Zachary Schlader, who made 164 DUI arrests in 2004.

Abbate’s young son Vincent, 3, with help from his mother, Vanessa, gave a pair of handcuffs to Trooper Brent Donaldson who made 221 DUI arrests in 2023.

After the ceremony, Vanessa Abbate declined to speak to a reporter, as did Michael Abbate’s mother, Judi Abbate.

Clutching framed photos of her son, Judi Abbate shared an emotional hug with Diane Malone, whose daughter Christa Puente, 33, was killed in May 2018 along with Christa’s husband, Damoso Puente Jr.

Other relatives of people killed in DUI or suspected DUI crashes who presented handcuffs to law enforcement officers included family members of 5-year-old Kamari Jordan Wolfe, who was killed in 2023 after he was dropped off at school. His relatives gave a pair of handcuffs to Clark County School District Police Department officer Christopher Lourenco, who made six DUI arrests.

Relatives of Suzy Chapel, who was 21 when she was killed in January, presented handcuffs to Metropolitan Police Department officer Allan Powell, who made 75 DUI arrests.

Three Las Vegas Raiders players were also on hand. Those players — Charles Snowden, Jordan Meredith and Michael Mayer — were joined by Montelle Sanders, the Raiders’ director of player engagement, and Daryl Nelson, the Raiders’ director of team growth and development, all of whom presented plaques to Southern Nevada law enforcement agencies.

Sandy Heverly, Stop DUI’s executive director, said the organization continues to advocate for victims and will be fighting for stronger penalties for DUI drivers in the 2025 legislative session.

“The penalties must always outweigh the risk these drunken fools are willing to take,” Heverly said. “We will always support law enforcement and continue to educate the public to the carnage caused by driving under the influence.”

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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