LAS VEGAS – Visitors at Ballys casino on the Strip, where a gunman killed one patron and injured two employees Monday, say they’re not shocked by the shooting -- stressing that violence can erupt anywhere, 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 hours after an argument over a cover charge at the Drai’s After Hours nightclub led to the death of a “good Samaritan” club patron who tried to stop the altercation, which left three others wounded, including the suspect.
“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.”
Police have not released the identifies of those involved. The club's manager and A security guard were injured as well as the shooting suspect.
About 5:45 a.m., a man entered the club, just a few feet away from the jangling slot machines on the casino’s main gambling floor, Las Vegas police spokesman Jose Hernandez told the Los Angeles Times. The late-night club opens 1 a.m. and closes at dawn, with a $30 cover charge for men.
The suspect first asked the club's security officers if he could take a look around before paying the cover charge, which they allowed him to do, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sgt. John Sheahan told reporters at a news conference on the Strip.
But not long after paying to get into the club -- with dawn only about an hour away -- the man approached security officers and the manager and asked for a refund, and an argument began, Sheahan said.
The man apparently shot the manager in the arm, Sheahan said, and then shot a security guard who tried to wrestle him down. He also shot a patron leaving the club who tried to assist security officers, Sheahan said.
The patron, who police described as a “good Samaritan,” was killed before security officers could restrain the man, Sheahan said. It was not clear Monday how many shots were fired.
“Typical good Samaritan killed who was trying to help,” Sheahan said.
The gunman was subdued after other patrons and security guards wrestled him to the floor. He sustained a head injury and was taken to a hospital along with the club manager and security guard. The patron died at the hospital, police said.
Sheahan said he expected the suspect would be charged, while in the hospital, with homicide and attempted homicide. It was not clear whether the suspect was searched for a weapon before he entered the club.
In February, two people in a taxi were killed after a gun battle between between people in two other vehicles that began at another hotel on the Strip. A combatant was also killed. The taxi was struck by one of the vehicles at the intersection outside Bally’s at the junction of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, across from the Bellagio Resort.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokesman Gary Thompson, in a statement, extended sympathies to the victims. “The safety and security of our guests is our No. 1 priority,” he added.
Thompson told The Times in an email that guns are not allowed on properties owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., including Bally's, but that security does not scan guests for weapons when they enter. He said the policy was not likely to change because of the shooting. “This is too isolated an incident, though a tragic one,” Thompson wrote.
“This can happen anywhere. That’s the thing that concerns us,” police spokesman Hernandez told The Times. “It’s not something that’s just going to happen in the Strip. We see this in society. We just want to have our officers there at the right time.”
At noon, one foreign visitor sat at a bar 20 yards from the nightclub doors and shook his head.
“We don’t wear weapons where I come from,” Juergen Kallup, a German national, told The Times. “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?”
The club was locked down for investigation on Monday.
Several security guards in dark suits stood outside the doors to Drai’s, as one apparently demonstrated how one of the victims was injured.
“He turned his back and he got hit here,” the guard said, pointing to his left torso.
The group then went inside the club.