Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2017

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Strip reopens after lengthy standoff with ‘delusional’ gunman on bus

Police ID suspect as 55-year-old Rolando Cardenas

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L.E. Baskow

A suspect finally surrenders to SWAT officers after being barricaded for many hours on a bus after a fatal shooting in the vehicle earlier today along the Strip outside the Cosmopolitan Hotel on Saturday, March 25, 2017.

Updated Sunday, March 26, 2017 | 1:14 p.m.

Bus Shooter on Strip

SWAT officers stage as they surround a suspect barricaded on a bus after a fatal shooting in the vehicle earlier today along the Strip outside the Cosmopolitan Hotel on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Parts of the Las Vegas Strip were closed for more than four hours Saturday as Metro Police negotiated with a “delusional” man they said killed one person and wounded another in a shooting on a double-decker bus.

Rolando Cardenas, 55, barricaded himself inside the bus near the Cosmopolitan, forcing authorities to shut down the Strip from Flamingo Road to Harmon Avenue while negotiating his surrender, police said.

Metro Police stressed that the shooting, which transpired on the second floor of a Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada bus, was isolated and wasn’t thought to have a nexus to terrorism.

Officers arrived at the scene near the Cosmopolitan almost immediately after the rounds went off about 10:45 a.m., Metro Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts said. There, they encountered fleeing passengers and quickly determined Cardenas was still on the bus.

The two wounded people, who were believed to be unknown to the gunman, were rushed to University Medical Center where one of them died, Roberts said. The other, who was shot once in the stomach, was expected to recover.

During the standoff, Cardenas fired two more rounds as officers sent robots into the bus, Roberts said. Police did not return fire.

Then about 3:15 p.m., negotiators convinced Cardenas to drop his .40-caliber handgun out of a bus window and peacefully surrender, Roberts said. No one else was inside the bus.

Roberts said Cardenas "didn't seem to have a motive" for firing his gun. Photographs captured a man wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, jeans, flip flops and a light orange cap, being hauled off by heavily-armed SWAT officers wearing helmets and carrying shields.

Cardenas was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on charges of open murder with use of a firearm, attempted murder with use of a firearm, burglary while in possession of a firearm and discharging a gun within a vehicle.

Northbound traffic reopened soon after the suspect surrendered and the rest of the closures were lifted about 5:20 p.m., RTC said.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of the rider who was fatally shot, and we also extend our sincere sympathies to the injured victim, the bus operator and the other passengers who were aboard during this tragic incident," said RTC spokeswoman Angela Castro in a statement. "The safety and security of our transit riders, contractors and staff is our utmost priority. We are working closely with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and remain committed to providing a safe public transportation system."

Sidewalks near the incident also were closed to foot traffic, marking one of the rare occasions when a section of the Strip was empty of pedestrians and cars alike. Police said hotel and casino patrons trapped between the perimeter of the crime scene were not allowed to exit through the front doors during the standoff and for a short time after Cardenas was arrested.

Standing in a denim jacket with her hands folded across her chest, Cosmopolitan guest Remy Camacho, 47, walked across the casino from a slot machine where she was seated at the north end of the venue to step outside just after 5 p.m.

The main entrance at the time remained guarded by a set of chairs and a security guard who said "negative" when asked if he knew when it would reopen.

Camacho said she hadn't been given any news of the barricade outside by the resort, but "could live with" not going out the front door for the afternoon. She expressed concerns for proximity of the shooting to where she was enjoying her Las Vegas vacation.

"That's kind of scary that it happened right here," said Camacho, who lives in San Diego. "What's to stop someone from coming inside and doing that?"

Officials at the Cosmopolitan said the safety of their guests was a top priority.

"We are cooperating fully with law enforcement officials and have no further details pending investigation," said a statement issued by property officials.

At the Bellagio, at least 20 guests stood mingling with each other near the resort's front doors and observing as valet and other staff stood by luggage carts lined in front of the doors.

"It's Metro's call," said a valet manager just after 4:45 p.m. when asked when the doors might reopen. "They have to clear the scene."

Foot traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard near the site of the barricade had both tourists and locals alike grumbling impatiently as they tried to navigate through heavy crowds.

Walking north past the Linq minutes after the suspect was reported captured, Las Vegans Hannah Savage, 24 and Amanda Pearla, 25, compared the jammed pedestrian flow to that of the year's busiest summer weekends on the Strip and even New Year's Eve.

"It's definitely not this hard to get around normally," said Savage, a 15-year Las Vegas resident.

Police stressed that the incident wasn't connected to a Hollywood-film-like heist at a high-end jewelry store at the nearby Bellagio about 10 hours earlier, police said.

Most interviewed guests at the respective hotels said while they were aware of Saturday's barricade and the robbery at the Bellagio earlier in the morning, the events were nothing more than an inconvenience, because they had to exit out of the hotels' parking garages instead of their front doors.

"I wouldn't say I'd never come back here," said Bellagio guest Brian Markley of Baltimore. "This rarely happens."