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‘He should be here’: Survivor grieves boyfriend’s death in random shooting

Amanda Brooks questions the “what ifs” about the night her boyfriend was gunned down in a random shooting outside a south Las Vegas convenience store.

What if the couple had not decided to give a formal relationship a try three days earlier? What if they had stayed home?

“We almost didn’t go,” Brooks said in a recent interview, sobbing.

Just before Curtis Abraham was slain, the up-and-coming Las Vegas filmmaker had invited Brooks out for drinks. After dating on and off for a couple of years, they had finally decided to settle down.

“I’m not gonna talk about it,” Brooks fondly recalled Curtis Abraham saying that day in early November. “I’m just gonna show you.”

So he did.

Out on the Strip that night, Abraham led an impromptu new couple’s dance on the ledge of the fountains at the Linq Promenade. A man teased him about how bad he was making him look in front of his own girlfriend.

A photo from that night shows Abraham, 36, overlooking the water, his arms outstretched. Their wide smiles radiate in a selfie.

“He was never afraid to hold my hand or show affection, which I really liked,” said Brooks, 28. “And that was his showing.”

Abraham stayed with Brooks the next couple of days as they tried to figure out their future: Would they move in together, or go back and forth between homes?

“We were just starting to talk about those things,” Brooks said.

‘I was horrified’

Early on Nov. 4, the couple drove to grab snacks at the nearby Short Line Express, 7730 S. Jones Blvd. They also had planned to go pick up tacos from Roberto’s.

Abraham waited in the passenger seat of her white sedan, turning up the music’s volume.

As Brooks paid at the register, a staccato of gunfire erupted outside. Before she and the cashier could react, a gunman appeared at the entrance, firing more rounds in their direction.

The two women ran toward the back, and rounded a corner into a freezer.

“I don’t know if my brain went blank or what, but I don’t remember hearing gunshots inside,” she said. They waited in there for about 20 minutes, which felt like “forever,” said Brooks, who was only wearing a sweatshirt, shorts and flip flops.

Brooks stacked up a shield of tubs of ice cream to obstruct the shooter’s view if he had entered. She had left her phone in the car.

Shivering, her worry for Abraham intensified.

“And I waited all that time, hoping and praying that he made it,” she said.

The gunman walked away from the store shortly after he stole beer and wine, according to the Metropolitan Police Department, which arrested him hours later.

But more time would pass before Brooks knew her boyfriend was shot, and it was even longer before she found out he had not survived.

Abraham was the first person Brooks dated after she moved to Las Vegas seeking a different life a couple of years ago. She found him charming, and she quickly knew that he would at least be a lifelong friend.

She was in love by their third date.

“We can finally decide to be together — and start building a life together — just for him to leave,” she lamented from her home, tears welling. “And it felt like a movie, if like we stopped right in the middle of everything.”

Brooks had hung on to lingering hope when nearby bar patrons who had assisted Abraham told her that he was breathing when an ambulance rushed him away.

She remembers big, loving and kind personality, his sense of humor and “almost embarrassing” loud laugh, which reminded her of comedian Kevin Hart.

Abraham, who also was an actor, dreamed of one day being a star, something Brooks and his loved ones were certain he would have accomplished if his life had not been ended by a “senseless act.”

Brooks has struggled to admit that he is gone.

Their last conversation was about God, and how he had always watched over them despite adversities.

“He can’t be gone. He was working on so much. He had so much more life left to live,” she said. “He deserved to have so much life to live. And to die that way. He was such a good person, such a wonderful man. He should be here.”

Aftermath

A Clark County grand jury indicted Jesus Javier Uribe, 22, this month on 27 felony charges, including murder, attempted murder, illegally discharging a gun and armed robbery, court records show.

A possible motive has not surfaced, and police allege he first shot into an empty car, then randomly targeted Abraham, Brooks, the cashier and another customer inside the store.

Tipsters, including the suspect’s family, contacted police after they released a photo of a gunman inside the store in a shooting stance. He had worn a tactical vest and a gun belt around his waist. He was arrested at his nearby home and booked into the Clark County Detention Center, where he awaits his next court hearing on Jan. 28.

Uribe, 22, denied being the shooter to detectives, who found a gun, tactical vest, gun belt and sneakers at his home. The weapon and gear resembled what the shooter wore in the store’s surveillance video.

Brooks’ close friend, Ebby Lee, awoke the morning of the shooting to a plethora of missed calls, and picked Brooks up from the scene after sunrise. Brooks then stayed with her for weeks.

Lee said she was saddened by his passing and not getting to meet him.

The shooting has caused Brooks lingering trauma.

She can no longer fathom the thought of driving by the convenience store. She is easily startled and has nightmares of being chased by someone who wants to kill her. She believes Abraham saved the lives of those in the store because had the gunman not paused to shoot outside, they would not have been able to react.

Lee said her friend has not been the same since.

“It was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever been through my entire life,” Brooks said. “And sometimes I feel like people are insensitive to that. The world was not ready to handle my sensitivity.”

“Sometimes I just can’t do certain things because I’m not ready,” she said.

Extreme acts of violence can lead survivors to have upsetting dreams, to avoid crime scenes and to no longer feel safe, UNLV psychology professor Stephen Benning said.

Loved ones of victims killed have some of the highest instances of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, he added.

But for her part, Brooks has begun coping and likes to instead think about joyful memories: how happy Abraham made her and how he continues to inspire her to be a better person with a strong work ethic.

“I think Curtis will always be here,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s gone, gone.”

She grieves in her own way.

Abraham left a pair of old sneakers at her place, which fit her.

“I wear them every day to work,” she said. “He’s still going.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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