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Army vet killed in El Paso mass shooting is remembered as devoted family man who loved telling stories

Arturo Benavides, 60, was killed in a mass shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3, 2019.

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By THE WASHINGTON POST Published: August 6, 2019

Arturo Benavides, a U.S. Army veteran who retired as a bus driver a few years ago, was checking out at an El Paso Walmart store on Saturday when a gunman entered.

He was running an errand with his wife, Patricia Benavides. The El Paso couple were at the register when the shooting started, according to a great-niece.

Someone pushed Patricia Benavides, 63, into a bathroom stall, and she was able to get away unhurt, accompanied by police, said Jacklin Luna, the great-niece. Arturo Benavides, 60, did not escape.

His extended family gathered and waited in agony for hours until hearing official word Sunday morning: Benavides "wasn't able to make it out," Luna, 23, said through tears in an interview with The Washington Post. A shooter who opened fire at the Walmart store left 22 people dead, including Benavides, and some two dozen injured.

Patricia Benavides is still inconsolable, Luna said, mourning the loss of her soulmate, a man characterized first and foremost by his total and unswerving devotion to family. They had been married more than 30 years.

"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," Luna said. "Whenever we all went out to eat, he would pay the whole bill, he didn't want anyone to spend a dime." Every week, Arturo Benavides would phone everyone in the family to see how they were doing, Luna said. He wanted to know: How are your grades in school? How is work, did you get that promotion?

Benavides had retired about two years ago, after working as a bus driver for Sun Metro, El Paso's public transit agency, Luna said. Before that, she said, he served in the Army, an experience that left him eager to spin military stories for anyone and everyone who would listen.

He loved to regale family members with tales of any kind, Luna said, calling him "a natural storyteller." Retirement gave him more time to savor and share memories of his childhood. He hadn't wanted to stop working, but his wife insisted. Luna said Benavides was slowly coming to realize the benefits of leisure time. Luna's sister had recently given Benavides a dog, a husky mix called Milo, and that helped, Luna said.

"He was starting to enjoy his time just at home, he would sit outside with his oldies music he loved the '60s and the '70s and his dog, who he just fell in love with," Luna said. "Something as simple as that would make him happy."

Benavides would have turned 61 in October, and Luna already knew what she planned to make him. Every year for his birthday, he requested the same thing: a pineapple upside-down cake. The pair had long ago bonded over food. When Luna was growing up, Arturo Benavides used to make her morning waffles on weekends. She cannot quite believe she will never make the man she called "Nino" a pineapple upside-down cake ever again.

This story was drawn from a Washington Post piece with reporting by Rebecca Tan, Meagan Flynn, Hannah Natanson, Mary Beth Sheridan, Hailey Fuchs and Gabriela Martinez contributed to this report.

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