Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2014

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Sweet’ man’s spree leaves family stunned

Frank Lemos got up at 3 a.m. Tuesday and turned the heat on so that his wife wouldn't be cold when she got up. Dressing for work, he continued to be thoughtful, putting a blanket over his wife's father, who was staying with them. He then kissed his wife goodbye, told her he loved her and headed for work.

A close friend of the Lemos family related this story to the Sun on Wednesday evening after spending time with Lemos' wife and other family members. The friend said the entire family is in shock, in a state of utter disbelief, that "kind, gentle, sweet" Frank Lemos could possibly drive a front-end loader over a co-worker, killing him, and tear about destructively until being shot to death by police.

"This is just the most horrendous thing," said the friend, who asked not to be identified. "His wife just doesn't know how this could have happened from a man who kissed her goodbye and told her he loved her."

Lemos, 56, has been identified as the driver who went berserk behind the wheel of a 100-ton front-end loader about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Chemical Lime Co. at Apex, where he had been employed 35 years.

Killed in the rampage was Arthur Reber, 55, of Henderson, a 38-year employee of the company. He was crushed when the bucket of the front-end loader dropped onto him.

Although an official Metro Police report has not been completed, witnesses say the driver smashed Reber's truck and then began pursuing Reber. After Reber was killed, witnesses say, the driver turned on area buildings, causing massive devastation. Metro Police reported they shot and killed Lemos after he drove the loader toward them in a threatening manner.

The driver's behavior is in stark contrast to the man described by the Lemos family friend. Lemos had three children, took care of several others and was known as a kind person who could fix anything -- and often did so for his friends.

"He was a devoted, loving family man," the friend said. "He never raised his voice. He had just moved his family into a new home, the first new home they had ever owned.

"This is so out of character for this man. He was a quiet, sweet guy. He was a wonderful husband and provider."

The family, the friend said, will remain in seclusion until after a private funeral Friday.

Services for Reber will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday inside the LDS Stake Center at 410 N. Valle Verde Drive near Warm Springs Road in Henderson.

Numerous Chemical Lime plants across the country are expected to hold memorial services in honor of Reber and Lemos, who each devoted nearly four decades of their lives to the company.

Metro homicide investigators have been interviewing more than 30 employees who worked the day shift Tuesday, but an explanation for the horrific incident has yet to emerge.

Chemical Lime is at a similar loss. Dave Reilly, the company's chief executive officer, debunked rumors circulating among employees after the incident that Lemos was retaliating against Reber for firing him earlier in the day.

Lemos had not been fired, Reilly said, adding that the two men worked in different parts of the plant.

Reilly flew in Tuesday from the company's Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters along with other senior management. He said any employee terminated from a job would be escorted off the property and away from any dangerous machinery.

"Since we have been here in the last 26 or 27 hours, trying to unravel what happened, we have identified nothing that would have allowed the local plant management to be aware of what was to come," Reilly said.

"This is such a tragedy. Nothing like this has ever happened before. It has hit us hard. ... Our sadness and shock go out to (both families). The entire company is distraught."

Some employees wondered aloud whether a worker's compensation claim filed several years ago by Lemos may have been a motive. The claim, based on a hernia Lemos alleged he received while on the job, was denied.

But Tim Quillin, a public-relations executive speaking on behalf of Chemical Lime, discounted that theory.

"The claim was filed 15 years ago," Quillin said. "They worked together for decades." He added that the company had been happy with the job performances of both men.

Reber was a plant production supervisor. Lemos operated a front-end loader in the lime quarry.

Lemos had been recognized as the company's top front-end loader operator for his ability in maneuvering the almost three-story-high machines, which are equipped with a shovel-like arm capable of lifting 20 tons.

Reber had been a recipient of the National Lime Association's safety award.

Born and raised in Mesquite, Reber was hired by Chemical Lime at age 18 as a maintenance worker.

He married his high school sweetheart, Darlene, and they raised four daughters and a son. Reber was also had seven grandchildren.

For their anniversary last year, Reber's wife surprised him by framing all their wedding pictures, cousin Richard Reber said.

"Our family is in deep shock," he continued. "Art was such a nice man. He was my softball coach when I was 13. He helped anyone in need. Family always came first, but he was also there for neighbors and the community. He would handle any problem that came along, and always with a smile."

Reber's forthright way with any situation deeply impressed Golden Welch, who served as executive secretary for the Valle Verde ward of the Mormon church, where Reber was bishop.

Welch's employer, Las Vegas Paving, also had a professional relationship with Reber through Chemical Lime.

"He always conducted himself as a classy, honest man, and was a tremendous example for the 550 members of our church," Welch said. "We went to his family's home (Tuesday) night to offer our support and more than a dozen youth showed up -- that lends itself to the type of person he was. They were juniors and seniors in high school he'd counseled over the years. They all looked up to him."

Reber kept his 6-foot, 1-inch frame in healthy, strong condition and was the only one of their group of four men who maintained a routine started more than a year ago of 5 a.m. gym workouts, Golden said.

"The most precious thing I will always remember about him is the relationship he had with his wife. They spent every day together, held hands, went to the movies, traveled together. The honeymoon lasted every day of their lives.

"His death has blasted a cannon hole into the soul of our Lord," Golden said. "We will miss him terribly. Our prayers also go out to the family of Mr. Lemos."

Insurance experts and numerous engineers were at the plant all day Wednesday surveying the wreckage and had yet to arrive at a damage estimate.

The administrative building where company records were kept, along with an electrical repair shop and a general warehouse, sustained extensive damage. Also wrecked was an electrical and computer room -- considered a major setback because it held what Reilly described as the newest plant's "brain."

About 60 people work at the Apex plant, about 20 miles north of Las Vegas off Interstate 15.

The site was originally a stone quarry when it opened in the 1940s. It became a lime plant in the 1950s and has since been considered by Reilly to be a source of some of the highest-quality lime in the country.

Lime is an alkali typically used as a neutralizing agent in road construction and the production of steel and gold, as well as in industrial waste streams.

The incident marked the first fatalities at the Apex plant. Chemical Lime also owns plants in British Columbia, California, New Mexico, Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida.

Sun reporter Jerry Fink contributed to this story.

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