Thomas Driscoll was in Las Vegas on Sunday and ready to hike the west coast for months when he was hit by a stranger.
At the end of an escalator near Bally’s Early Sunday, a 33-year-old man got angry and struck, knocking Driscoll down and fatally injuring the back of his head, according to a detention report. The Clark County Medical Department ruled the 57-year-old former Connecticut police officer and avid hiker was murder.
“It was just such a violent ending for such a gentle person,” said Brian Hsia, 28, who viewed Driscoll as a father to him and his younger brother, “in every way that matters.”
Brian Hsia’s mother, Annie Chong, said she has known Driscoll for 20 years and the two dated a decade when Driscoll helped raise their sons. The couple went their separate ways, but Driscoll was still a big part of their family, Chong said during a phone interview Tuesday.
Driscoll worked for the Connecticut State Police for 22 years, primarily serving as a member of the bomb squad where his black Labrador Retriever, Owen, patrolled Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
He retired from police work in 2009, according to a statement from the Connecticut State Police.
“It makes us sad to hear that he died after being attacked,” said the agency. “Our thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends.”
Scheduled to hike the Pacific Crest Trail
Since retiring, Driscoll has focused on raising Brian and Evan Hsia and then traveling and hiking around the country, Chong said.
When he wasn’t traveling, Driscoll, who grew up in Chicopee, Massachusetts, split his time between a cabin in Maine and Chong’s family in Connecticut, Brian Hsia said Tuesday.
He had hiked several stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail over the years, which runs more than 2,600 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington. But this year he was planning a trek, which meant he wanted to walk from the beginning of the trail at the Mexican border to the Canadian border, Brian Hsia said.
Traveling the country to visit friends is typical of Driscoll, said Brian Hsia, but as of Sunday, Driscoll had only planned to spend a few more days in Las Vegas.
Just before 4:30 a.m. that day, Driscoll was walking on a footbridge with a woman identified by police as a Nava guide when police said they passed a group of men.
One of the men, identified as Brandon Leath by the Metropolitan Police Department, made a comment on the two walking through their group, investigators wrote in Leath’s arrest report. Leath ran towards Driscoll and Führer, then down a flight of stairs where he was waiting for them at the bottom of an escalator.
“Leath put his backpack down and took a fighting stance,” the report said.
Driscoll went up to Leath and Leath hit him, the police wrote. Driscoll did not move after the blow.
Leath was arrested near The Mirage, and during an interview with police, he admitted to being at the location where Driscoll was injured but denied beating him, the report said.
He was admitted to the Clark County Detention Center for murder and held without bail as of Tuesday, court records show. He is due to appear in court on Wednesday.
“The greatest man I have ever known”
Chong said she and her sons have been heartbroken since Driscoll’s death. You have heard little information from the Las Vegas police.
“He’s still a big part of my family’s life,” said the 50-year-old. “He called my mom every other week and texted my kids every Friday.”
The two met 20 years ago when Chong was working as a waitress at her parents’ restaurant in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Every day Driscoll would go to the restaurant, sit quietly in a corner, and order the same main course – chicken and broccoli.
It took him two months of lunch every day to find the courage to ask Chong her name, she said.
“He’s not a big flirtatious guy and he seemed very down to earth – relaxed,” said Chong, reflecting on their first date. “He was so cute to me too.”
Driscoll spent his free time enjoying baseball, soccer, and the outdoors, she said. He took the boys to his cabin in Maine where he taught them how to fish, make a fire, and make s’mores, said Brian Hsia. He was there for lacrosse games and karate tournaments and encouraged Brian Hsia when he was attending medical school.
“He was just the greatest man I have ever known,” said Brian Hsia. “He was under no obligation to raise me and help my mother raise me and my brother. He was our father in every way. “
Now he has to adapt to a life without Driscoll having a text removed.
“It’s just unfair that his life was stolen the way it was,” he said. “He just deserved better.”
Contact Katelyn Newberg at [email protected] or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.