For months, Terone Hartfield eagerly awaited the day he and his five siblings would meet for the first time.
The Pontiac man only learned about his brothers and sisters, who share the same father, in the last few years, but the entire group had never been together all at once. So after many calls and conferences on Skype, they finally had synchronized their schedules enough to meet up next month in Las Vegas, where the youngest of the clan, Charleston Hartfield, lived.
“That was our goal,” Terone Hartfield, 53, said. “We were so close to making that happen.”
In an instant this week, those dreams, and all of their newly reconnected lives, were upended.
Charleston Hartfield, an off-duty Las Vegas police officer and youth football coach, was among the 59 slain after a gunman opened fire Sunday from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel onto a crowd of more than 22,000 below at a country music festival.
Instead of planning a cruise as they hoped, his family is preparing for a funeral.
“This is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with,” Terone Hartfield said Tuesday night. “I can only imagine, and I don’t want to imagine, what his wife and children are going through. This was senseless, could have been avoided. Still don’t know the motivation or reason for it.”
Those questions haunted Hartfield as soon as another sibling, Denita Oyeka, told him about the officer’s death early Monday.
Hartfield learned his brother had been off-duty and with his wife at the concert when shots rang out. The 34-year-old shielded her “then proceeded to go out to rescue other people when he was shot,” he said.
Even before learning about his brother’s involvement, Terone Hartfield had been bracing for the worst when watching the events unfold on TV before work.
“I had this gut-wrenching feeling,” he said. “I told myself I’d get a phone call that day.”
The loss was especially acute since Terone Hartfield had only been contacting his brother in the last year and was amazed by the younger man’s background.
Besides spending more than a decade as a police officer, Charleston Hartfield — the father of two teenagers — had served in the Army and went to Afghanistan, his brother said.
Hartfield is also listed as the author of a book titled “Memoirs of Public Servant” about his time as a Las Vegas police officer.
“From what I knew from talking with him, I thought he was a phenomenal person,” he said. “He was a much bigger man than I ever thought. He was amazing.”
Charleston Hartfield was known as a selfless, respected leader who brought out the best in his players, said Stan King, whose son played football for Hartfield.
Troy Rhett, another friend of Hartfield’s through football, said he knew from social media that Hartfield was attending the Sunday concert. When he heard about the shooting, he texted him, hoping to learn Hartfield was safe. He never heard back, and Rhett said he learned through another friend Monday morning that Hartfield had died.
Hartfield, who also went by “Chuck” or “Charles” or even “Chucky Hart,” was a military veteran and leaves behind a son and a daughter, Rhett said.
Terone Hartfield said he plans to join his family in Las Vegas this week as they support their brother’s widow and children.
He has also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for a legacy fund — a gesture intended to commemorate the military veteran’s life and service.
“My brother was a hero,” Terone Hartfield said. “He fought for his country. He supported his community and he died saving lives.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.