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DA might seek death penalty for Strip-shooting suspect arrested in LA

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GENE BLEVINS / Los Angeles Daily News

Local residents watch as the media arrive at the Studio City, Calif., apartment where police say Ammar Harris, a felon sought in a shooting and crash that killed three people on the Las Vegas Strip, was arrested, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013.

Updated Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 | 9:01 p.m.

Harris apartment

Local residents watch as the media arrive at the Studio City, Calif., apartment where police say Ammar Harris, a felon sought in a shooting and crash that killed three people on the Las Vegas Strip, was arrested, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Metro Police Hold News Conference after Ammar Harris Arrested

A photo of Ammar Harris is displayed on a video monitor before a news conference at Las Vegas Metropolitan Police headquarters Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 after Harris was arrested in North Hollywood. Harris, 26, is the suspect of last Thursday's shooting and accident on the Las Vegas Strip that left three people dead. Launch slideshow »
Ammar Harris

Ammar Harris

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 »

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said the suspect in the Strip shooting that left three dead demonstrated “reckless disregard for human life,” and would not rule out seeking the death penalty after the man’s arrest Thursday in Los Angeles.

After a weeklong, nationwide manhunt, Ammar Harris, 26, was found at an apartment complex in Studio City, where Los Angeles Police Department officers and FBI agents converged around noon. Harris surrendered peacefully, Metro Police Lt. Ray Steiber said.

Harris faces three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, plus counts of discharging a firearm into a vehicle and discharging a firearm out of a vehicle, according to a criminal complaint filed last week by Clark County prosecutors. The murder charges ultimately may be changed to capital murder.

At the news conference announcing the arrest Thursday, Wolfson said his office would follow its usual procedure in determining whether Harris would face the death penalty. The decision to file capital murder charges is determined by a committee of prosecutors in the D.A.'s office.

But, Wolfson said, "I can tell you that Mr. Harris’ behavior is like none other that I've seen, and I've been in law enforcement for 32 years."

"I can’t imagine anything much more serious than firing a weapon from a moving vehicle into another moving vehicle on a corner such as Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo. That is reckless disregard for human life, and there are certain consequences when you engage in that kind of behavior," Wolfson said.

After his arrest, Harris was transported to the LAPD Metro Detention Center. "He's in the process of being booked. We'll see if he waives extradition," Steiber said during a 4 p.m. media conference.

Metro detectives were on their way to Los Angeles to interview Harris, Steiber added.

Harris, 26, had been identified by Metro as the person who fired gunshots from a Range Rover into a Maserati sports car in the early-morning hours of Feb. 21 as the vehicles made their way up the Las Vegas Strip.

Kenneth Cherry Jr., the driver of the Maserati, and a passenger were hit in the shooting. Cherry’s wounds caused him to lose control of the car, which ran a red light at Flamingo Road and crashed into a taxi.

The impact triggered an explosion in the cab. Three people were killed: Cherry; the cab driver, Michael Boldon, 62, of Las Vegas; and cab passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, a businesswoman from Maple Valley, Wash. The criminal complaint filed against Harris identified the passenger who survived as Freddy Walters.

Cherry’s family expressed elation after learning of Harris’ arrest. But the timing of the news on the day of Cherry’s funeral in Oakland made the news bittersweet, the family said in a statement through their attorney, Bob Beckett. Cherry’s father, Kenneth Cherry Sr., expressed hope that the district attorney would seek the death penalty for Harris.

“It is consoling to know that the state of Nevada has the death penalty,” Cherry Sr. said in the statement.

An argument between Cherry and Harris reportedly occurred before both men left Aria early in the morning of Feb. 21, but detectives do not believe they knew each other previously, Steiber said.

Harris had eluded authorities since the shooting. The Range Rover was found Saturday in the parking lot of an apartment complex where Harris lived, not far from the shooting scene.

Harris was said to have been from South Carolina and spent time in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Miami. Authorities said earlier this week that their search for him stretched from Maine to California.

“(Harris) left Las Vegas shortly after this event occurred … He did leave Las Vegas pretty rapidly,” Steiber said.

Steiber did not give details about how police located and closed in on Harris.

The FBI told the Los Angeles Daily News that Harris was arrested around noon at a fourth floor apartment on Arch Drive, where he was staying with a friend. Harris’ friend lived in the Archview Apartments, the newspaper reported.

FBI special agent Scott Garriola told the Los Angeles paper that the friend was detained for questioning but was not thought to be involved in the incident.

Earlier Thursday, Metro Capt. Chris Jones reported three witnesses who had been with Harris the morning of the shooting had been located and interviewed. One, Yenesis Alfonso, also known as Tineesha Lishun Howard, was found outside Nevada and interviewed Wednesday evening after being named as a person of interest in the case.

Alfonso and the other two witnesses were cooperative and were not considered suspects, Jones said.

Harris was arrested in 2010 in Las Vegas on charges of pandering, kidnapping, sexual assault and coercion. He is also known by the name Ammar Asim Faruq Harris, and uses the nickname Jai’duh.

Alfonso’s arrest history includes soliciting prostitution, trespassing, possession of a stolen vehicle and grand larceny, trick roll, according to Metro Police.

On a networking website for models and photographers, someone who appears to be Harris posted a profile under the name Jai’duh.

The profile says Jai’duh is a fashion photographer looking for models, and includes samples of his work. The profile, created June 15, 2008, states: “Just relocated to Las Vegas from Atlanta. … So I’m fresh out here.”

Attempts to contact models who appeared to have worked with Harris were unsuccessful.

Harris had at least two twitter feeds, @NY and @jaiduh. The former was used more frequently and was deleted after the shooting, while the latter was seldom used and remains active but is a private account.

On social media, Harris flaunted a lavish lifestyle, posting videos of him counting $100 bills and partying in Miami and elsewhere.

A Lockerz.com account that appears to belong to Harris includes pictures of stacks of cash harnessed by rubber bands, expensive luxury cars and a Carbon 15 .223 caliber pistol.

In one photo that looks to be a screen capture of an instant message conversation, someone tells Harris: “A ho with no instructions, will fail in self-destruction.”

Harris also posted a picture of a credit card for “AMG Lifestyle” with the caption “Filing taxes on em lol,” and identified himself as AMG Management on his Twitter account.

A business entity search in Florida found an AMG Lifestyle Inc. registered to Alfonso.

Harris is scheduled to appear Monday morning in an L.A. courtroom on a fugitive warrant, Los Angeles County District Attorney Sandi Gibbons told Los Angeles Daily News. Next for Harris will be extradition back to Nevada, Metro indicated, where a warrant charging him with three counts of murder was issued Friday.

News of his arrest was greeted warmly.

“The Desert Cab family is just absolutely elated,” said Sandy Shaver, general manager of Desert Cab, the company whose taxi was involved in the collision that resulted in the deaths of Boldon and Sandra Sutton-Wasmund.

“It was so irritating that he was still out there. We couldn’t be happier right now,” Shaver said.

Shaver said word of the arrest spread rapidly on two-way radios used by drivers in their cabs.

“Nothing in the 20 years I’ve worked here has put such a weight on the company more than the loss of Michael (Boldon) and his passenger,” Shaver said. “It’s a big relief to us that he has been caught.”

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