Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2017

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Clark County commissioner stunned no charges filed yet in latest Strip death

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

The view of New York-New York from one of the penthouse apartments at Veer Towers at CityCenter.

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Steve Sisolak

A Clark County commissioner is questioning authorities’ handling of an incident in which a 32-year-old man died after being punched inside New York-New York, saying it appears to have been a homicide — the fifth on the Strip over 11 days last month — yet no charges have been filed.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak said he is stunned that officials haven’t filed charges or further investigated the case of Jeffrey Terrell, who died July 9 after lying unconscious for hours in a hotel hallway.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Sisolak said. “It just seems like there’s more to this story.”

Terrell was the fifth person to die on the Strip over 11 days. The other four deaths — three from stabbings and one from being punched — prompted murder charges.

Sisolak wants a full accounting of Metro’s and the district attorney’s handling of Terrell’s death.

Sisolak, who serves on Metro’s Fiscal Affairs Committee, said Metro staff told him the district attorney decided shortly after the incident that no charges would be filed. After the Sun inquired about the death Thursday, Metro issued its first news release on Terrell’s death, and said the district attorney was considering charges.

Sisolak said Metro officials told him this about Terrell’s case:

Terrell met four people selling merchandise — CDs or bottled water or T-shirts — on the Strip on July 6 or 7. The five helped each other, then decided to party that night. Someone got a room at New York-New York, where the five hung out.

The next morning, while the other four were asleep, Terrell took their wallets and made for the door. One man, described as very large, awoke and chased Terrell to the elevator. There, Sisolak was told, the man hit Terrell, who fell and was knocked unconscious. Thinking Terrell was still alive, the assailant retrieved the wallets, returned to the room and fell asleep. That was about 5:40 a.m.

For six hours, Terrell lay on the hallway floor near the elevator as hotel customers stepped around his body entering and exiting the elevator, according to what Sisolak said he was told by Metro.

Finally about 11 a.m., resort security got involved. Terrell was still unconscious but alive, Sisolak said he was told.

Terrell was taken to a hospital, then taken to a different hospital. He died July 9 at Valley Hospital.

Metro was involved in the case several hours after security found Terrell and, knocking on hotel room doors, found the four men who had been with him. They all told the same story: They met, they partied; he stole their wallets, he got punched; they got their wallets and that was that.

Police made no arrests. The information went to the district attorney.

Sisolak compares it with the other punching incident that claimed a life on the Strip last month:

“How can the guy at O’Sheas, who punched someone once and the guy died, get charged, but not the guy at New York-New York?” he said.

Don Massie, a Utah man, died after a single punch at O’Sheas thrown by Benjamin G. Hawkins, 37, of Gainesville, Fla., after a verbal fight in the restroom. Hawkins, a Florida teacher and assistant high school coach, has been released on $25,000 bail on an open murder charge.

After Massie’s death, the third in a recent string on the Strip, police called the killings anomalies.

Then Metro released information last week about a fourth killing in July, followed by another news release on this fifth death last week.

The killings occurred against the backdrop of growing concern over the atmosphere on the Strip.

Sisolak, whose district includes the Strip, believes its image is hurt by the hundreds of people illegally selling merchandise, combined with a growing army of men and women in costumes enticing tourists to snap pictures with them for a “donation,” along with the dozens of solicitors handing out “girls right to your room” business cards.

It’s not just that most of the hustlers don’t have permits, it’s that they are clogging sidewalks and can make tourists feel uncomfortable, he says.

He used the word “blight” to describe the feeling he got during a recent walk on the Strip. A Metro officer who oversees the area told the Sun that police call it “disorder.”

Commissioners at today’s meeting are likely to approve the formation of a committee that will include resort operators, with help from county staff, to figure out what to do about the problem.

“I’m concerned, but I’d be concerned if it was just one death, much less five,” Sisolak said. “Efforts to clean up the Strip are going to be very important. As a big part of our economy, we should all be concerned about what goes on down there.”

The commission meeting begins at 9:15 a.m.

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