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Three killed after gunshots fired from SUV cause fiery crash on Las Vegas Strip

Image

Steve Marcus

Wrecked cars are shown on Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Avenue as Las Vegas Metro Police investigate a shooting and multi-car accident that left three people dead and three injured on the Las Vegas Strip early Thursday morning, Feb. 21, 2013. EDITOR’S NOTE: This photo has been digitally altered to obscure an image of one of the victims.

Updated Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 | 9 p.m.

Strip shooting crash

Smoke and flames billow from a burning vehicle following a shooting and multicar accident on the Las Vegas Strip early Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Fatal crash

The Las Vegas Strip became a scene of deadly violence early Thursday when someone in a black Range Rover opened fire on a Maserati, sending it crashing into a taxi that burst into flames, leaving three people dead and at least six injured.

Late Thursday afternoon, names of two of the deceased became known. The man driving the Maserati has been identified as Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr., 27. Las Vegas attorney Vicki Greco, of Greco Law Group, had represented Cherry in speeding ticket cases and said friends of his had been calling throughout the day about his death. The deceased taxi driver was identified as Michael Boldon, Desert Cab company general manager Sandy Shaver confirmed.

Police said a confrontation that appeared to have begun in the valet area of the Aria resort spilled onto Las Vegas Boulevard, leading to sporadic gunshots being fired from the Range Rover as the vehicles traveled north. The accident occurred near Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, the site of several major casinos, including Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Bally's.

"This doesn't happen where we come from, not on this scale," said Mark Thompson, who was visiting from Manchester, England, with his wife. "We get stabbings, and gang violence, but this is like something out of a movie. Like 'Die Hard' or something."

Police were contacting authorities in three neighboring states about the Range Rover Sport with tinted windows and paper dealer plates that fled the scene about 4:30 a.m.

Metro Police Sgt. John Sheahan said the vehicles were seen pulling onto Las Vegas Boulevard near East Harmon Avenue, near City Center, then heading north. Although authorities initially said gunshots were fired from both the SUV and the Maserati, Sheahan clarified that gunfire came only from the Range Rover.

Thursday afternoon, Sheriff Doug Gillespie said after the driver of the Maserati was shot, he lost control of the car passed through a red light and hit the taxi cab, which went up in flames. Boldon and his passenger in the cab were killed. Cherry died in the Maserati, and his passenger was shot.

"What is the genesis of this, when did this all start? We don't know yet," Las Vegas Police Sgt. John Sheahan said.

The passenger in the Maserati was taken to University Medical Center, where he was being interviewed by detectives.

Gillespie said there were several people in the Range Rover, but police were not saying whether they knew of any relationship or ill will between the people in the two vehicles beyond the argument at the valet station.

Tourists staying in high-rise hotels around the scene found police tape blocking access to the area around the intersection. By 8 p.m., the intersection was reopened, after police crime scene investigators were finished collecting evidence.

Jeff Martin, 33, of Columbus, Ohio, said he was unable to cross the Strip several hours after the incident.

"When you're out at 4 a.m. nothing good's going to happen," he said.

Sheahan said the attack was not a rolling gun battle as previously described. The cars were stopped at a light when at least one person in the Range Rover opened fire. Several people were inside the vehicle, described as a four-door SUV with big black rims.

Multiple rounds were fired from the Range Rover, Gillespie said. He added police did not know whether what kind of firearms were used in the shooting,

Six other vehicles were involved in the crash that followed, including the taxi and Maserati.

Shaver said he was called to the scene to provide information.

Shaver also said the taxi that was struck was not fueled by propane or natural gas, as some had speculated. Gillespie said the cab exploded from the "sheer force" of the impact of the crash.

Greg Bambic, president of the Professional Drivers Association, a taxi driver organization dedicated to assisting drivers who are victims of crimes and acts of violence, said the group plans to donate $5,000 to the Boldon family.

Bambic said the organization since 2004 has donated thousands of dollars to drivers who have been robbed and assaulted on the job and their families.

“It’s drivers helping drivers,” said Bambic.

The association raises money through memberships and fund-raisers and it receives donations from Southern Nevada companies that are friendly to the cab industry. Bambic said some of the most supportive donors are the cab companies themselves.

Teri Williams, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, which oversees the Nevada Taxicab Authority, said the agency’s patrol officers were close to the scene when the incident occurred and were among the first responders.

The Taxicab Authority investigates accidents involving taxicabs.

Williams said Metro took over the investigation, but authority officers are continuing to assist. She had no further details about the status of the investigation.

The incident marked the latest violence on the Strip since the beginning of the year. Two people were critically wounded in a shooting at a parking garage Feb. 6, and a tourist was stabbed Saturday in an elevator at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. On Dec. 14, a busy Friday night at the Excalibur, a murder-suicide near the registration desk of the resort sent crowds visitors running to the exits.

A spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Jeremy Handel, said his organization didn't immediately have a comment on the latest incident and deferred to police.

Metro spokesman Officer Jose Hernandez acknowledged the Strip has seen several violent incidents in recent weeks but said police have made arrests or identified suspects in each case.

"People don't have to worry," he said. "This is an unusual occurrence, as tragic as it may be."

Eileen Brosnan, who was visiting Las Vegas from Killarney County Kerry, Ireland, was stunned by what she saw at the scene.

"I live in a little small town where we have absolutely no crime," she said. "The only way we hear about things like this is on CNN or news from other places. I knew there was crime here, but I wasn't expecting anything of this magnitude. I don't feel less safe, because there is plenty of security and police to deal with it. It is very surprising to me, though. I was staying at Caesars, and I just had to come down and see it."

Sheahan said police have video from traffic cameras at the intersection and were checking whether the shooting might have been sparked by an altercation at a nightclub.

"We have a lot of pieces to put together to establish a timeline as to why this confrontation occurred," Sheahan said. "We have numerous detectives checking resorts on the Strip south of this intersection."

In interviews with Fox 5 KVVU-TV, family members of Boldon said he moved to Las Vegas recently to care for his mother, who is 93. It was not clear where Boldon lived before making the move.

“My life mission would be to see (the suspects) punished and brought to justice,” said Tehran Boldon, Michael Boldon’s brother. “I don’t know what their affiliation is, if they’re in a gang or whatever. But they’re stupid and senseless men, and they must pay.”

Cherry was an aspiring rapper whose twitter feed included links to videos identifying him as "Kenny Clutch" and with scenes featuring a Maserati on the Las Vegas Strip. His attorney said Cherry loved cars and drove a gray Maserati, but she’d always remember him for his trademark dreadlocks.

“He was loyal, dependable, somebody that would always have your back if you were on his team,” Greco said. “He was a stand up guy.”

Associated Press writers Ken Ritter, Michelle Rindels and Hannah Dreier contributed to this report, as well as Sun reporters Will D’Urso, Ron Sylvester, Tovin Lapan and Richard N. Velotta.

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