Published Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016 | 1:11 p.m.
Updated Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016 | 4:36 p.m.
A shooting inside a southwest valley Starbucks on Sunday left a man dead and a suspect arrested and led to the evacuation of a shopping center while authorities investigated a backpack left behind by the suspect.
Officers responded about 11:30 a.m. to a Starbucks at 7260 S. Rainbow Blvd. #100, in the area of West Warm Springs Road and South Rainbow Boulevard, upon reports of a shooting, Metro Lt. Dan McGrath said.
Investigation revealed that a man went through the store's drive-thru, and when his credit card was declined, he became agitated, McGrath said at the scene around 3:30 p.m. Although the employee in the drive-thru gave the man his order at no charge, the man parked his truck behind a Bank of America next door at 7280 S. Rainbow Blvd. and entered the store. Still agitated, the man got into an altercation with another man in the store and fired at least three shots — one to the victim's chest and two in the air — McGrath said. The victim was transported to Spring Valley Hospital, where he died. The suspect threatened to shoot others inside the store, but no other injuries have been reported.
The victim, described as a man in his 40s, and the suspect do not appear to know each other, McGrath said.
Police began receiving calls about the shooting around 11:28 a.m., McGrath said. Initially, Metro was treating the shooting as a hostage situation because there was some confusion about who the shooter was, both because he had mixed in with the crowd of about 12 to 14 people inside Starbucks and because the suspect called police several times and described the shooter as someone looking different than himself, McGrath said.
The suspect, whom McGrath described as a Hispanic man in his 30s, exited the store at 11:37 a.m. and was taken into custody and is being held at the Clark County Detention Center.
When he was arrested, the man told police there was an explosive device in a backpack he left just outside the store, so SWAT and a bomb squad responded to the scene to determine if there is a device in it. Although McGrath said there was no reason to believe there was a connection to terrorism, surrounding businesses were evacuated.
"We are erring on the side of caution," McGrath said.
Yerania Cervantes, an employee at Subway, 7320 S. Rainbow Blvd. #105, said that about 11:40 a.m., officers came inside and told everyone to get out because there was a possible bomb in the area. Her initial thought was fear.
"I was scared," she said. "Our door wasn't locked."
About 2:15, Metro tweeted that the agency had transitioned from an active scene to investigation and that the possible explosive device in the backpack had been deemed safe. However, much of the street remained blocked off and businesses closed until about 2:55 p.m. The Regional Transportation Commission tweeted at 3:09 p.m. that Rainbow was reopened in both directions but that restrictions still remained on Warm Springs.
Police searched the man's residences, but no evidence of explosives were found, McGrath said. The suspect's gun was recovered at Starbucks. Police were worried about the man's truck posing a danger, as well, so they were going to pursue a search warrant for it.
Kristina Gebers of Las Vegas said she was on the phone for an hour with her 19-year-old son Will Wright, a cashier who was working at the time of the incident, while he was barricaded in the back of the coffee shop with two others.
"My son called me and said, 'Mom, don't freak out,'" she recalled.
Gebers' daughter said her mom has a heart issue and that she and her brother often have to calm her down, otherwise she could end up in the hospital.
"He wanted to make sure I was okay," Gebers said, tearing up.
"I begged him to stay on the floor and stay quiet," she continued. "The scariest part is that he said it was so quiet out there. ... I thought everyone was dead out there. It just rocked my core. ... I told him that if they do penetrate the door, he's a martial artist black belt, 'Then you have to do what you have to do.'
"There was a moment that I thought if my son is going to die ... at least I will be on the phone with him."
But in the midst of a scary situation, Gebers saw a strong side of her son that made her proud. She said that while they were on the phone, she heard her son continually telling a girl in the room that everything would be OK.
"He to me is a hero," she said. "We are so proud. He just stayed so calm and he's only 19 years old. He kept everyone else calm."
Eric Champagne of Las Vegas, who was shopping with his 11-year-old son at the time of the incident, said he was locked inside the CVS Pharmacy at 7295 S. Rainbow Blvd. for about an hour with about 30 other people. He said an officer told them they needed to stay inside because police were involved in a standoff with an active shooter across the street at Starbucks.
As they sheltered in place, Champagne said, he heard a man crying hysterically while talking on the phone with his pregnant wife who was inside the Starbucks at the time of the shooting. He also recalled a woman inside CVS who was talking to her son on speaker phone when her son, who was also in Starbucks, was told to put his hands up.
"It was scary," Champagne said. "We never thought we'd be in a situation like this."
He also said it was "surreal" to see the suspect get arrested.
After officers allowed them to leave CVS, Champagne said he went home just up the street from where the incident happened.