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November 19, 2018

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He could always make me smile’: Slain taxi driver leaves void at Desert Cab


Richard N. Velotta

Cab drivers from Desert Cab tally their trip sheets Friday afternoon after coming in from their 12-hour shifts. Day shift drivers shown here were the closest colleagues to driver Michael Boldon, whose image appears on the video monitor on the wall.

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 »

The Desert Cab operations office is loud and busy at 4 in the afternoon.

That's when cab drivers who have been picking up and dropping off passengers since 4 in the morning come in to tally their trip sheets while the night shift drivers prepare to go out in those returning cabs.

It's a melting pot of languages, skin colors and nationalities. Many of them wear "DC" gear, displaying the corporate logo of Desert Cab.

Drivers sit at tables with their calculators, counting out cash before logging on to one of several computer screens set up to settle the day's receipts.

Within about an hour, 84 drivers are coming in from the city streets and 102 are going out. Drivers tell stories from their day and compare how much money they made. They joke, laugh, eat wings, hot dogs and hamburgers and talk about any celebrities they may have served as supervisors scurry through the group looking for drivers who want to take an extra weekend shift.

But the office was a little quieter Thursday and Friday afternoon.

Michael Boldon, who was approaching his second anniversary as a driver with Desert, wasn't there with his friends.

Boldon was the cab driver who was killed in the fiery crash on Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road early Thursday when an out-of-control Maserati slammed into the side of his car as he drove through the intersection.

Police investigators say the driver of the sports car, aspiring rap star Kenny Cherry, who used the stage name "Kenny Clutch," had been shot by a gunman in a black Range Rover that disappeared into the night.

Toni Sablon, an operations specialist for Desert Cab, said Thursday afternoon should have been a great day because with the MAGIC fashion trade show in town, drivers made some good money. But the mood was subdued because they knew one of their own was gone, taken away in a tragedy that could have happened to anyone.

Boldon had a full tank of gas and had just picked up his first customer of the day at the Rio and was heading to the airport. That customer, identified late Friday as Sandi Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Wash., also died in the crash.

"He could have very easily took what they call the long route," said driver Derrick Miller, one of Boldon's closest friends at Desert. "They tell you not to take the tunnel which would have meant getting on the freeway (at Flamingo Road). But Mike was going the right way. Every driver out here says if he had taken the long route, taken the tunnel, he would have still been alive. That just blows my mind that his last act on the planet was doing the right thing.

"He was giving a great ride, a fair ride, to a person. He was doing his job as an ambassador to the city and they both exited out to heaven," Miller said.

But then, that was what Boldon was all about, friends and family say.

"He was friendly and he would talk to everybody," said cabbie Ishfaq Iqbal. "He'd buy coffee for other drivers.

"But he's gone. I'm so hurt."

As Boldon's Desert Cab cohorts and his family grieves, the community has begun to respond.

A driver returning from the afternoon shift shared how when he was stopped at a traffic light, a limousine driver who had pulled up beside him motioned for him to roll his window down so that he could tell him how much the transportation community was hurting for Desert.

Earlier in the day, Peter Feinstein, a managing partner of the Sapphire Gentlemen's Club, announced that the company is contributing $5,000 to the Boldon family and setting up a donation station at the valet drop-off to receive contributions from cab and limo drivers or anyone else who wants to assist the family.

The Professional Drivers Association is also giving $2,500 to the family.

As drivers were in the midst of their shift change, Michael Hutton of Executive Limousine, based across the street from Desert Cab, walked into the office and made a contribution.

"I hope that others in the community would do the same," he said, taking a long look at one of the two video screens in the office that showed pictures of Boldon and the words, "Rest in peace, Michael Boldon, March 14, 1950-February 21, 2013." A similar sentiment is posted on Desert Cab's website.

Sablon probably knew Boldon the longest at the company because she supervised his training when the avid Detroit Tigers fan first joined the company after moving to Las Vegas from Michigan.

"He was just a fun guy to be around," Sablon said. "People would be lining up to get their payouts and he'd come around the side and stick his hand up in front and we'd all laugh and I'd say, "Watch out for that guy."

Sablon said his family was always his favorite topic of conversation.

"He had a great sense of purpose in life," she said. "In one of the last conversations I had with him, he was telling about how he had raised his son as a single parent and how much he loved his grandchild who was moving back East."

At the end of his shift Wednesday, Boldon was one of the last drivers to the payout line.

"I looked out and I said, 'Drivers, the window will be closing in 10 minutes,' and he came hopping and skipping to the window and it made all of us laugh," he said. "He could always make me smile."

Miller affirmed Boldon's love for his family.

"For Mike, the puzzle had just come together," Miller said. "He had just paid off his house in Detroit. He had just gotten a house here with his sister. He got all of his family in there. His birthday's in two weeks. His two-year anniversary with the company was coming up. I just can't believe how his life came together.

"He was 62. I'm 51. And we had a conversation about how great it was for senior citizens to be able to be of service and work and still help out their families. That's the way he was. He's a senior story and an ambassador story and he always did things the right way."

Miller said he's only been with Desert for 53 days and Boldon immediately took him under his wing as a mentor when he took the job.

"I didn't know how to fix my credit card machine in the pit on my third day on the job," Miller said. "He got out of his car and came over and said, 'Let me show you how to do it.' And I said, 'No, just tell me what to do.' And he said, 'Well let me show you the first time, and then you can do it on your own.' That's the type of guy he was.

"He was a great listener. He didn't have to talk to make a great conversation."

Early Friday morning, dozens of taxis from across the city were led by a procession of Desert Cabs to the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road where Boldon had lost his life 24 hours earlier.

They flashed their lights when they reached the place where he had left them, a small tribute to a humble driver who tried to make his community better by doing things the right way.

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