Coroner: Las Vegas Boy, 4, Found In Pool Drowned

Candace Bowers, 40, overcame many challenges in her life. Her mother died when she was a young girl. She raised two children as a single mother.

Nevertheless, when a relative experienced her own life problems, Bowers took in the woman’s baby and officially adopted her in May. Family members say the act of kindness showed the Garden Grove woman’s character, always placing the needs of others above her own.

Bowers worked as a waitress at Mimi’s Cafe, had a wide circle of friends and enjoyed spending time with her children, 16-year-old Katie, 20-year-old Kurtis, and the recently adopted Ariel, 2.

“Everybody loved her. She always had a smile on her face and would help anybody,” Vicki Jeffries, Bowers’ aunt, said in a phone interview before breaking down in tears over Bowers’ death. “She had a big heart. She was just a sweetheart. She would do anything for anybody.”

There has been an enormous outpouring of community support. The football team at Pacifica High School, which Katie attends, plans to wear decals on their helmets honoring Bowers during their next game. The Posse Bar in Westminster, where Bowers socialized, is holding a fundraiser Oct. 21. And a fundraising website for Bowers’ memorial costs and children had raised more than $30,000 by Wednesday afternoon.

Bowers loved country music and spending time outdoors, so a trip with a girlfriend to the Route 91 Harvest Festival combined both. When the shooting broke out, the women huddled under a table but decided to seek safety by running. In the chaos, they got separated. The last time Bowers’ friend saw her, she was running behind her holding her phone in the air, Jeffries said.

Nobody could find Bowers on Sunday night, so her uncle, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, drove to Las Vegas on Monday. Late that night, the family received the confirmation that Bowers was among the fatalities.

Katie called her great-grandfather, Robert Lacayo, and asked him if he was sitting down.

“The worst day of my life was on Monday,” Lacayo said. Katie “called me and she tells me, ‘Pop, Mom’s gone.’ She started crying. She said, ‘Pop, what am I going to do without Mom?’ It was the worst feeling you can ever have. I can’t even express it. I would have preferred death myself.”

Lacayo, a 78-year-old veteran who served in the Korean War, wants to use his granddaughter’s death to try to decrease the availability of assault weapons.

“Everyone else might forget this in six months, but we will never forget about it. I won’t and her daughter won’t and her little daughter won’t and her son will never forget about it,” he said, thinking ahead to Thanksgivings and Christmases where there will be an empty seat at the dinner table.

“Thoughts and prayers are just not going to do it,” he said. “People tell me ‘God works in mysterious ways,’ and ‘Think of the good times.’ That doesn’t work when you’re hurting.”

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