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Fatal Strip shooting:

Who is Kenny Cherry? Loved ones reject Strip shooting victim’s portrayal as criminal


Las Vegas Sun Staff

Wrecked cars are shown after 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 Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 | 12:49 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 »

Two days later, Kenny Cherry’s death after a shooting on the Las Vegas Strip appears less of a mystery than his life.

Cherry, who authorities said was originally from Oakland, Calif., lived in Newport Lofts, one of four high-rise residential buildings downtown. Several residents of the building contacted by the Sun said Cherry was a virtual unknown.

“No one is talking about it much because no one really knew him,” said one resident. Others said they knew him by his distinctive hair and his car but had little information about him, personally.

Some media outlets have suggested Cherry was a pimp, but Metro Police spokespeople say there is no evidence — either through an arrest record or current investigations — tying Cherry to any form of prostitution.

Cherry’s attorney, Vicki Greco, who also described herself as Cherry’s friend, described Cherry as a “quiet guy who kept to himself.”

She expressed anger at the characterizations of Cherry as some kind of criminal.

“He was the victim here,” she said, adding that Cherry’s family was not happy with media accounts, either; when she called the family, she said, they hung up on her the first time believing she was a reporter.

Through various sources, the Sun has learned the name of the passenger in Cherry’s vehicle. Greco said she had not heard that name and didn’t know him.

After he was shot, Cherry lost control, ran a red light at Flamingo and crashed into a taxi that erupted into flames. The driver, Michael Bolden, 62, and a passenger also died.

The Clark County Coroner’s office has identified the passenger as Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Wash. Sources told the Sun she was a tourist here for a convention. She had been at the Rio and was on her way to McCarran International Airport, cab company sources said.

Greco represented Cherry on several traffic violations; records show many of them were dismissed, such as a citation for driving without a wearing a seatbelt Dec. 30, 2009.

“I don’t know that he’s a bad driver,” Greco said, noting the dismissal. “But cops profile here and he’s a young black man driving a Maserati. He would get pulled over.”

She said Cherry was “a businessman” who was invested money to make money. In fact, Greco said, his investment in a Las Vegas car rental company led to him filing a breach of contract lawsuit against Boulevard Car Rentals in 2003.

The case was later settled, Greco said. One of the defendants in that case, Nicholas Ghafouria, has the same name as a man sentenced in January to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, drug and money laundering.

Ghafouria and several others initially were arrested in October 2010.

Greco said the fact that Cherry filed a civil lawsuit demonstrated the unlikelihood of him being involved in criminal operations.

“Criminals don’t handle things by filing civil lawsuits,” she said.

Cherry was an aspiring rapper whose music videos viewable on YouTube portray him living the “gangsta” lifestyle with his nom de plume, “Kenny Clutch.”

Video for the song, “Stay Schemin” features him and TEEJ on the Las Vegas Strip in a Maserati. The song appears to glorify the gangsta lifestyle, punctuated with explicit language. Video for another song, “Free,” shows someone sorting seeds from marijuana buds and other apparent drug use.

Greco said the video persona and the real Cherry were two entirely different people.

“If somebody does something for a living and that is for a career, they sometimes have a role to play and he chose to play the gangsta rapper,” she said. “I don’t know why.”

If Cherry really was a gangster, she added, would he broadcast himself as such?

“Once again, if you really are a gangster carrying guns for shootouts … well, most criminals wouldn’t make a video out of it.”

Angelica Chavez, a nightlife promoter who said she knew Cherry for more than a year, described him as an “honest and good person and supportive friend.”

Cherry leaves behind three young children, two daughters and a son.

“He wanted to be a good father and he was a loyal friend. No matter what it was, no matter what I needed,” Chavez added. “He was like a big brother to me.”

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