Staff Spotlight: Lieutenants Marcos and Lyla Baca

May 31, 2023 | by The Salvation Army

On May 6, 2023, Lieutenant Lyla Baca was attending a women’s retreat at The Salvation Army’s Camp Hoblitzelle. It was a peaceful, sunny Saturday.


When a church member of the corps suddenly entered the cabin, Lieutenant Lyla instantly sensed something was wrong. And when she started to speak, relaying the text she had just received from her daughter, the worship leader at The Salvation Army in Plano, Lieutenant Lyla froze. And the day instantly turned dark.

The church member’s daughter worked at the Allen Premium Outlets, where a gunman had just opened fire.


In the two hours that followed, the daughter, along with countless others on-site at the mall, ran and hid until a SWAT team entered and confirmed they were safe. They would later learn that May 6, 2023, would now mark the second-deadliest mass shooting of the year. They would hear the tragic news that eight people had been killed and seven wounded.


On Sunday afternoon, Lieutenant Lyla and her husband, Lieutenant Marcos Baca, were contacted by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which was helping to establish a crisis command within the Family Assistance Center at the Allen Senior Recreation Center. They needed The Salvation Army.


In the days that followed the incomprehensible loss of life in our North Texas community, the Bacas, who oversee the Plano Corps Community Center, sprang into action. Lieutenant Lyla established spiritual and emotional care and psychological first-aid services at the FAC for those who would return to retrieve property they had abandoned during the moments of terror.


For those worried they couldn’t pay their bills while the mall was shut down, or expressed difficulty returning to a public setting, Lieutenants Baca were able to provide them help through the year-round services the Plano Corps provides, such as utility, rental, and food/grocery assistance.


“Everyone’s story was so different of what they experienced,” Lieutenant Lyla said. “They were searching for an answer.”


Meanwhile, the FBI was collaborating with the Allen Police Department to transport victims to the mall for their vehicles, and they called for extra assistance. Lieutenant Marcos immediately offered The Salvation Army Plano Corps’ two buses and van to serve as a shuttle. They drove back and forth to the mall for four hours Sunday and four hours Monday, offering support for those who would be returning to the devastating scene. The Salvation Army’s disaster truck from Plano handed out bottles of water to victims and first responders at the FAC during the shuttling hours.


It was estimated there were 1,300 vehicles in the parking lot left behind.


“One of the beautiful things about being an officer in The Salvation Army — and what the Lord has blessed us with here — is our fleet of vehicles,” Lieutenant Lyla said. “It’s touching to see that we were really doing something.”


On Monday, the Bacas called in The Salvation Army’s Lewisville Corps’ emergency mobile canteen to the FAC to hand out lunches, snacks, and water to first responders and victims. They quickly realized they needed more.


Lieutenant Marcos visited local restaurants in the community, seeking partners who would join The Salvation Army in providing care to all those impacted. The response was remarkable.


“The community was ready and eager to give and help in any way they could. We had people calling us asking us what they could do — feed, donate, anything,” Lieutenant Lyla said. “It was amazing to see God in all of it.”


The local Chick-fil-A, Olive Garden, Jimmy John’s, Starbucks, Credit Union of Texas, Silver Thai Cuisine, Rotary Club of Plano, and Collin County Marine Corps League all contributed meals or monetary donations. That allowed the Bacas to serve more than 1,000 meals to victims and first responders from the FBI, Department of Public Safety, Police Department, Department of Justice, Red Cross, and other volunteer organizations for three days following the unprecedented event.


As Allen works to heal from this unspeakable event, the Bacas marvel at the coordination of the on-site agencies and the outpouring of support and compassion from the community.


“It’s hard to talk about it. We are trained for this, but you’re just not prepared,” Lieutenant Lyla said, through tears. “I had to remind myself that we get to do this. We get to serve in His kingdom. We get to be there for the community.”


In times like these, The Salvation Army of North Texas relies on its faith for comfort. If you need help, we are here.

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