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Cape man’s nephew among Las Vegas shooting victims

October 4, 2017
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Due to an act of "pure evil," a Cape Coral resident received a call that many families are not prepared for.

Stalin Mendoza, who just recently moved to Cape Coral from Corona, Calif., found out Monday that his nephew, Chris Roybal, was one of the victims in the massacre that took place in Las Vegas when a gunman shot and killed 59 people and injured over 500 more during the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

Roybal was a veteran of the Navy serving in Afghanistan.

"He goes off to war," Mendoza said. "We were all worried he was going to die out there, and he comes back and he's safe. And then he ends up dying at a concert. It just seems so wrong."

He said Roybal joined the Navy to find a way out of Corona and find a path in life.

"The Navy was a way to get some direction," Mendoza said.

His life was on the line every day while in the Navy.

"He became a dog handler," Mendoza said. "He was sniffing out bombs with his dog ahead of the unit. He says 'Uncle Stalin, I shouldn't even be here. I stepped on like five IEDs that didn't go off.'"

"He wasn't meant to go," Mendoza said. "We were just excited to have him back when he came back."

Roybal was like a son to Mendoza in his younger years.

"He and I had a huge connection over the movie 'Top Gun,'" Mendoza said. "I was like his dad that he didn't have."

When Roybal grew up, Mendoza became a close friend.

"We'd always spend time together," Mendoza said. "He'd call me out of the blue. 'Hey, I'm going to come visit you, don't go anywhere.'"

Roybal was planning on coming to Cape Coral soon to visit his uncle.

"He fell in love with the pictures that I would post and the videos that I would post," Mendoza said.

After leaving the service, Roybal moved out to Denver and worked at a gym selling memberships.

"He was doing really, really well," Mendoza said. "Just thinking what he was going to do next in his life."

The last time Mendoza spoke to his nephew was the day before the incident. Roybal was out there for his upcoming 29th birthday.

"I was actually supposed to be out there," Mendoza said. "He was calling me. 'Uncle Stalin, you're such a rock star. Get on a plane and get out here.'"

Mendoza said he didn't want to spend the money to go to the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

"It wasn't a premonition," Mendoza said. "I just didn't want to spend the funds. I would've been standing next to my sister or standing next to him when all this was happening."

Roybal was with his mother at the event but she was closer to the stage.

Roybal and a couple of his friends were staying at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino where the gunman was found.

"They were on the street when they got hit," Mendoza said.

His death was confirmed Monday morning through fingerprints.

"(My sister) was looking for him," Mendoza said. "We couldn't find him anywhere. We knew something had gone wrong. His friend said the he actually had seen him pass. But we were holding on to every last hope that maybe he had just passed out and not died, and that someone picked him up and took him to one of the hospitals and that he was in ICU somewhere and they just hadn't identified him yet."

Roybal's mother had to go to the coroner's office to officially ID him.

Mendoza found out at 1:30 a.m. that there was a shooting in Las Vegas at the event that his nephew was at.

"Once it hit, it was pretty devastating," Mendoza said. "I had to reach out to my daughter and my son and my other family members. The whole family is pretty destroyed."

Mendoza quickly hopped on a plane for Los Angeles on Tuesday to mourn with his family.

"I had a friend of mine hook me up with a flight from Tampa," Mendoza said. "I finally got to sleep on the plane. What goes through my mind are the memories, the times that we spent together and how we won't be able to build on that anymore."

Mendoza remembers the kind of person that Roybal was.

"Every time we got together, we had a best memory," Mendoza said. "We would get together and it was drinks and laughter and singing."

Roybal loved karaoke and hanging out with his friends. He was a swimmer in high school.

"He would walk into a room and just light up the room with his smile and his humor," Mendoza said. "The guy was a walking jukebox when it came to lyrics and he could sing anything."

Mendoza is devastated but has no ill-will for the gunman.

"I'm not angry," Mendoza said. "I'm just destroyed emotionally."

But he has had a lot of friends and family reach out to him for condolences.

"I've been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and love from friends and friends of friends," Mendoza said. "My Facebook is blowing up. My messenger is blowing up. My text messages have blown up. My phone is blowing up. I can't even respond to everybody who is reaching out to me. I've never had such a response to anything."

He just wishes his nephew was still here.

"I love you and I miss you," Mendoza sadly says.

Chris Roybal's family has a relief fund set up at www.gofundme.com/chris-roybal-family-relief-fund.

 
 

 

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