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Friends, family remember guards killed in Las Vegas casino

As security guards at Arizona Charlie’s, LaTosha Juane White and Phillip Albert Archuleta were protectors — in and out of the casino.

They loved their families and friends in their own ways, White as a huggable guardian, Archuleta as a fun-loving prankster. White, 50, was a seasoned security officer more than 20 years; Archuleta, 28, was a year and a half into his gig.

They’re both gone now, having been gunned down Dec. 30 while on duty. But their spirits and personalities linger on in the people they touched.

Tamia Dow remembers White as her friend and “bodyguard.” When they were both students at Chaparral High School, White heard a girl say something offensive about Dow, and White pushed the offender away.

“That’s how Tosha is,” Dow said. “She was like this faithful, loyal friend and nobody could come to her and say something bad about you.”

A week after the shooting, friends and family were celebrating the security officers’ lives.

“They are the eyes and ears of Metro,” Dow, a retired police officer, said Tuesday. “They respond first.”

‘A gentle giant’

A funeral for White, who grew up in Las Vegas, was held Sunday at Unity Baptist Church. The chapel standing-room only.

Her family members, who have roots in New Orleans, wore Mardi Gras beads, played Mardi Gras music and danced as they ushered in White’s casket. She was buried in her favorite Green Bay Packers jersey, with Reggie White’s name and No. 92 on the back.

Days later, Dow remembered her friend as gregarious and humble. White had been promoted to supervisor at Arizona Charlie’s, but continued to wear the badge of the lower-ranked security guard.

Standing nearly 6 feet tall, Thomas could seem imposing, but her closest friends called her a “teddy bear” who was always cracking jokes.

“She was a gentle giant,” Dow said. “She’d hug you so tight you wanted to tap out.”

White was the second oldest of three siblings, including her brother, Bobby, and sister, Camille. She is also survived by her mother, Sandra, and father, Luther. At Chaparral High School, she was in band and played the alto saxophone. She ran for the track team, twice winning the state shot put title.

As a woman who valued family, she cherished her lifelong friendships and treated everybody’s kids as if they were her own, friends said.

In November 1987, White’s best friend since elementary school, Tanya Jervis, gave birth to a baby boy at Nellis Air Force Base. He had a tear in his heart, and his lungs were underdeveloped. He was rushed to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

When doctors said the baby likely wouldn’t live much longer, Jervis called White.

“Don’t worry, I’m on the way,” White told her.

There in the hospital, he was baptized. White was named his godmother.

“She was like the sister I never had,” Jervis said. “She was the watchdog, she looked over everybody. She was that special person.”

At Chaparral’s homecoming football game in October, White will be honored with a bronze nameplate, Jervis said. It will be displayed at the school’s front entrance with other plates memorializing other deceased alumni.

“She’s gone to heaven,” she said. “That’s the only place that was destined for her.”

‘He is still with us’

Om Sunday, outside Davis Funeral Homes on Eastern Avenue, Archuleta’s family wore white T-shirts bearing his photo. They prayed and shared stories of the beloved uncle, brother and father who moved to Las Vegas around five years ago from Simi Valley, California.

He was a father of two boys, John Phillip, 10, and Jayden, who turns 2 in February.

“I’ll miss his presence,” his older sister, Lisa Garcia, said Tuesday. “His funny little text messages, his jokes.”

She said that no matter what her brother was going through, he always smiled through it.

“He wanted to show everybody that he was happy,” she said. “He would go out of his way for everyone, no matter if he knew you or not. He was very selfless.”

Around five years ago, he met his girlfriend of more than three years, Anggy Guizar, at Ross Dress For Less, a clothing store where they both worked. Guizar recalled a night almost two years ago when Archuleta saw a young homeless man walking the street barefoot. Archuleta drove home, grabbed shoes, money and a water bottle and drove back to deliver them to the man.

He played blackjack and fixed cars. He called all his friends “punk,” and liked to startle them by making noises or popping from behind doors. Once, he jokingly threw water on his son John’s face to wake him up.

“He made it special,” Garcia said. “It was his own way of saying, ‘Hey, love you.’”

He was one of five brothers and sisters: Garcia, 37, Evelyn Gallegos, 33; Ricky Medrano, 32; and Joseph Archuleta, 22. When their parents died — their father from liver cancer in 2007, their mother of lymphoma shortly after — the kids stuck together.

At his memorial service, Medrano said he stayed a night at the Rio after Archuleta died.

During Medrano’s stay, he was in an elevator that traveled to the fourth floor unexpectedly. The doors opened and wouldn’t close. He pushed the button to force them closed, but they stayed open — so long that the alarm began ringing.

The incident seemed unusual, until Medrano remembered that his brother was shot on the fourth floor of Arizona Charlie’s.

“That was a sign from our brother,” Garcia said. “Showing us that he is still with us.”

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.