The U.S. Army has announced that a decorated former staff sergeant was one of those killed in the El Paso, Texas mass shooting on Saturday.
Arturo Benavides, 60, who served in the active-duty Army and National Guard for 23 years until his retirement in 2001, was among the 22 killed in the shooting, Military.com reported.
Benavides had served as a motor transport operator, cargo specialist and MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missile system crewman in the Army.
“If anyone ever needed anything, he was the first one there: If we needed a ride, a shirt or a meal, he was always the first person to offer anything he had,” said a relative of Arturo Benavides. https://t.co/L5DY38lV0L
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) August 6, 2019
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz said Benavides served in the active-duty Army from June 1978 to January 1984, then he joined the Texas Army National Guard in February 1984 and served until June 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Benavides had received the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, and Adjutant General Individual Award from the Texas National Guard.
He was also a retired bus driver for the El Paso’s Sun Metro.
Benavides and his wife, Patricia would routinely wake up on Sunday mornings, go to mass, and then shop at Walmart, near El Paso’s Cielo Vista Mall. This time, Benavides decided that he wanted to go to Walmart on Saturday instead.
It was the same Saturday that 21-year-old Patrick Crusius entered the store and opened fire, killing 22 people and injuring 24 others.
Benavides was at the checkout when Crusius entered the Walmart. His wife was waiting for him on a bench near the bathrooms.
The couple’s niece, Jacklin Luna, said that when the gunman opened fire, Patricia “was pushed into a handicapped bathroom’ and was not shot.
After the carnage, Crusius surrendered to police, who intend to charge him with a civil right hate crime and domestic terrorism.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the Benavides’ family.
The page states, “It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of our loved one Arturo Benavides. He was an amazing husband, son, brother, godfather and uncle. He was an honored Army Veteran and well-known Sun Metro Bus driver. He will live on through his family and friends.”
About her uncle, Luna said, “He was kind, generous, always willing to give everyone the shirt off his back. People would look forward to riding on his bus. Regulars would only ride with him. That says a lot.”
Ruben Rojas, Benavides’ nephew, described him as “easygoing” and a good Catholic who attended Mass at St. Pius X and enjoyed watching all types of sports — especially the Dallas Cowboys.
Nephew Jimmy Cervantes said, “He was a cheerful guy, always telling stories about his war days. The same stories every time. That used to be his battalion. He loved being out there and chitchatting with people. He would start talking with everyone.”