Vegas Strip back to normal as police hunt for black SUV

<i>This post has been updated. See the note below for details.</i>

LAS VEGAS -- The Strip’s most notable intersection was back in business as police continued their manhunt for a black Range Rover whose occupants opened fire on a Maserati early Thursday, causing a fiery crash that left three people dead, including an aspiring rapper.

Authorities on Friday were conducting a four-state search for the occupants of the luxury SUV, who police said opened fire on the Maserati about 4:20 a.m. Thursday following a verbal altercation at a valet stand outside the Aria resort and hotel.

The Maserati crashed into several cars at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, including a taxi that burst into flames, killing both the driver and his occupant as well as the driver of the Maserati. The Range Rover was able to speed away.


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Las Vegas police have not yet publicly identified the dead. But several TV stations, including KCBS in San Francisco, said that family members identified the driver of the Maserati as Ken Cherry, a rap artist who had recently moved here from Oakland and who is known as Kenny Clutch. An Internet video of a Cherry song called “Stay Schemin” shows two men in a vehicle on the Strip.

[Updated, 10:45 a.m. Feb. 22: Eugene Morris Jr., of Oakland, confirmed to the Los Angeles Times on Friday that the driver of the Maserati was his grandson, Ken Cherry. Morris said the family is devastated by the death. “We just can’t talk about it now,” he said, adding that Cherry’s mother planned to travel from Oakland to retrieve her son’s body. “In our last conversation, she said she was going to get Ken.”]

A Las Vegas TV station identified the taxi driver as Michael Boldon, 62, who Fox News 5 said had recently moved here from Michigan to care for his 93-year-old mother.

By Friday morning, the scene where the dramatic crash took place, in which a handful of other drivers were injured, was buzzing again with both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The busy intersection, ringed by such casino titans as Bally’s, the Bellagio and Caesars Palace, was reopened about 8 p.m. Thursday.

But the mayhem had already made its mark on a city used to outrageous events. Police say the 15-hour closure was the longest in The Strip’s history, which makes its presence known 24 hours a day. The famed fountains at the Bellagio, usually opened at 3 p.m., did not start Thursday until after dark, when pedestrians were allowed to return to the area.

Early Friday, a group of taxi drivers stopped at the spot where Boldon’s cab exploded into flames for a silent 10-minute memorial. Police looked on as the drivers stood at a makeshift altar of flowers and notes set up at the base of a nearby traffic light.

Throughout the morning, taxi drivers beeped their horns as they passed the intersection. Desert Cab Inc., Boldon’s employer, said it is sponsoring a collection in honor of the driver.

Meanwhile, The Strip was gearing up for another weekend. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority would not comment on whether they believed the accident and deaths would keep people away from the resort city in coming days. On Thursday, the organization released a statement saying the deaths were a rare event.

“Recent incidents, while unfortunate, were isolated events. Las Vegas is among the safest travel destinations in the world and utilizes the most advanced technology and training to maintain a secure environment,” the statement said. “Providing a safe and secure experience is our top priority.”

The statement added that violent crime in the tourism corridor was down approximately 13% in 2012 and is down nearly 11% so far this year.

Those statements were echoed by Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, who said that his department would make sure the shooters were caught.

He said the Range Rover was last seen near the Venetian resort as it headed north from the shooting scene. Police have video from traffic cameras at the intersection and from nearby taxis and were checking hotel surveillance systems.

The video will not be made public.

“What happened will not be tolerated,” Gillespie said, vowing that the shooters would be “found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

But the city has been the site of several recent violent incidents. Two people were critically wounded in a shooting at a parking garage on Feb. 6, and a tourist was stabbed last Saturday in an elevator at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay.

On New Year’s Eve at Circus Circus, a man pulled out a revolver and fired it into the ground just off the main floor of the casino. Less than two weeks earlier, a woman allegedly slashed the face of a blackjack dealer at the Bellagio.

The Maserati crash occurred just two blocks from the spot where rapper Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1996, as assailants opened fire on his luxury sedan from a vehicle on Flamingo Road. The killing has never been solved.


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