Local woman’s brother among 1st responders in Las Vegas

Published 1:23 am Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tomi Cox had a harrowing morning on Monday.

As the world was waking up to news of a meticulously-planned mass shooting in Las Vegas, Cox got a call from her mom.

“My mom called me at 5:48 a.m.,” Cox said. “She wanted to let my know before I saw it on the news.”

Cox’s brother is Det. Steve Balonek, a 19-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

At 10:08 p.m. Nevada time Sunday, the shooter opened fire on the thousands of people attending a country music festival a few hundred yards northeast of his hotel. Fifty-nine have died, and 527 were reported injured.

As national news reporters reported the initial numbers, a misunderstanding from her mom had her worried and afraid.

“My mom said Steve was working, but Steve always seems to be working,” Cox said. “He loves his job.”

But because she had a bad phone connection, Cox believed her brother was among the hundreds who had been shot and injured in Las Vegas.

“I wasn’t sure he was OK until about 11 a.m.,” Cox said. “When my mom called, I had bad service and thought she said he was shot; but she said ‘wasn’t shot.’ Until about 11, I wasn’t sure.

She sent him a text and he answered, “I’m OK.”

Cox said his brother doesn’t really talk about his job.

“He tries to leave it at work,” she said. “He knows we worry about him.”

But a video posted to YouTube by the LVMP tells the story of Det. Balonek stepping into danger to save others. In July, he was awarded the department’s medal of honor for bravery in disrupting a kidnapping in progress.

The story is told in the video “LVMPD Heroes: Kidnapping Disrupted.”

Cox said now that the crisis has passed, she is feeling “very proud and relieved all in one.”

“I’m proud my brother chose to serve and protect,” she said. “He will always be my hero.”