‘Wasn’t in his right mind:’ Mother of accused Pendleton casino gunman ‘shocked’ at Wednesday’s events

PENDLETON, Ore. — Elizabeth Melendrez hasn’t seen her son, 51-year-old Javier Francisco Vigil, in years, deciding to live in Portland, Ore. after falling ill to stay close to her doctors.

That’s why she was “shocked” when a friend called her on Wednesday, Aug. 17 to notify her that Vigil was in custody after an alleged armed robbery attempt.

“I couldn’t believe he did something that crazy,” Melendrez told KAPP-KVEW’s Ellie Nakamoto-White in an exclusive interview. “He wasn’t in his right mind.”

Melendrez said she knew her son had faced mental problems for decades.

“It’s been a long time. I’ve known for at least 20 years,” Melendrez said. “Evidently, he wasn’t on his meds and he just snapped.”

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Melendrez added that the recent death of Vigil’s best friend in her son’s home also contributed to the breakdown.

“He was really torn up about that, too. So, I know that had something to do with his mind freaking out,” Melendrez said. “He’s a good person. He’s got a good heart.”

However, she did note that in the past, Vigil had violent tendencies.

When asked if she had seen or heard any warning signs in their recent phone calls, Melendrez said no.

But music videos posted to Vigil’s YouTube channel the day before the robbery provided a different perspective on his state of mind.

One alarming caption read in part, “Wildhorse, your [sic] mine.” Another read in part, “1 million in my exspress [sic] account today.”

That amount is what the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said Vigil requested during the armed robbery, according to a news release Friday.

“According to court documents, in the early afternoon on August 17, 2022, Vigil is alleged to have entered the Wildhorse Casino, walked straight to the cashier cage in the gaming area, and handed the cashier a note demanding $1 million. Vigil then drew a holstered pistol, pointed it at the cashier, and threatened to “bathe everyone in blood,” the release said.

The DOJ said the Umatilla County man is now being charged “by criminal complaint with committing a Hobbs Act robbery and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.”

Vigil appeared in federal court in Portland on Friday.

“He was ordered detained pending further court proceedings,” the release said.

Despite Vigil’s alleged actions, Melendrez said she hopes the community “doesn’t judge.”

“He just must have had some kind of mental something going on because there’s no way that he would do something like that,” Melendrez said. “That was just crazy.”

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