LAS VEGAS — A Las Vegas nightclub patron, hailed by police as a good Samaritan, was killed early Monday while helping security guards subdue an armed man during an argument over a $30 cover charge, police said.
The club manager, a security guard and the shooting suspect were injured during the predawn mayhem at Drai's After Hours club at Bally's casino. All were hospitalized, but their conditions were not released Monday evening.
The suspect, identified as Benjamin Frazier, 41, faces charges of homicide and attempted homicide, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officials said. A spokeswoman for the Clark County coroner's office said the identity of the dead man probably would be released Tuesday after his family was notified.
The violence erupted after a man arrived at the club about 5:45 a.m. and asked security officers if he could take a look around before paying the cover charge, which they allowed him to do, Las Vegas police Sgt. John Sheahan said.
Soon after paying the full cover charge — with the club's dawn closing time approaching — the man asked for a refund, and an argument began, Sheahan said.
The man shot the club manager in the arm and shot and wounded a security guard who wrestled him down, police said. He then left the club, where he was tackled from behind by the patron, who was shot in the melee.
The gunman was finally subdued by other customers and security guards. The wounded patron died at a hospital, police said. "Typical good Samaritan killed who was trying to help," Sheahan said.
Las Vegas defense attorney John Momot said he represented Frazier in 1996 on a charge of attempted murder with a deadly weapon. "We got the charges reduced and he successfully completed his probation," Momot said. "He had some trouble and he resolved it, but this was a big day for him. It looks like he's in a lot of trouble again."
Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokesman Gary Thompson, in a statement, extended sympathy to the victims, adding, "The safety and security of our guests is our No. 1 priority."
Thompson said in an email that guns were not allowed on properties owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., including Bally's, but that security did not scan guests for weapons. He said the policy was not likely to change. "This is too isolated an incident, though a tragic one," Thompson wrote.
Drai's website advertises a club where patrons can "party like rock a star" in a "controlled" environment.
Several gamblers at Bally's on Monday said they were not shocked by the shooting — emphasizing that violence happens everywhere, even in a gambling mecca where operators try to create a bubble of free-spirited carelessness.
"I guess they could increase security," said Barry Leeming, a British citizen who wandered among slot machines a few feet from the nightclub's entrance. "But then again, that's not what Las Vegas is all about, right? People come here to enjoy themselves, not face constant reminders of the dangers out there."
In February, two people in a taxi were killed in a fiery crash caused by gunfire between people in two other vehicles that began at another Strip hotel. The driver of one of the other cars also was killed. The taxi was struck by one of the vehicles outside Bally's at the junction of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, across from the Bellagio resort.
Las Vegas police said Monday's shooting did not mean the Strip was a dangerous place. "This can happen anywhere; that's the thing that concerns us," spokesman Jose Hernandez said. "It's not something that's just going to happen on the Strip. We see this in society."
Karl Bennison, chief of enforcement for the Nevada Gaming and Control Board, which oversees casino operations, said Monday the agency was concerned about an apparent pattern of violence at clubs on the Strip. "We take it very seriously," he said.
The board has issued detailed safety responsibilities for club owners. "We have given them a laundry list of things to be on the lookout for, from drug use and prostitution to violence, and we have leaned on them to use best practices in case of any trouble," Bennison said.
In an April 2012 letter, for example, the board said complaints involving clubs and other Strip venues included drug use, sexual assault and "tactics used to collect fees from patrons for entry, bottle service, the handling of incapacitated individuals and restricted access for law enforcement."
Bennison did not rule out further safety and screening requirements in light of Monday's shooting.
Drai's was closed for investigation. About noon, several security guards in dark suits stood outside the main doors, as one demonstrated how a victim was shot. Nearby, workers ripped up carpet, presumably to remove blood stains.
"He turned his back and he got hit here," the guard said, pointing to his left torso. The group then went inside the club. It wasn't clear which victim they were discussing.
Nearby, a bar patron shook his head.
"We don't wear weapons where I come from," said Juergen Kallup, a German national. "I come to Vegas every two years for a convention and this is the first time I've seen such violence, but it doesn't surprise me.
"All these people wear weapons. What do you expect?"