Hunt continues for Las Vegas shootout suspect

KEN RITTER
Last updated 07:51 25/02/2013
Las Veags shooting
Reuters Zoom
The carnage after the shooting and crashes on on Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Avenue in Las Vegas.

Fatal Las Vegas strip shooting

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A 26-year-old man is being hunted as the prime suspect in a pre-dawn shooting on the Las Vegas Strip last week which led to a fiery crash that left three people dead and several others injured.

Las Vegas police Captain Chris Jones said investigators were working around the clock to sort through evidence and find Ammar Harris following the discovery on Saturday of a black SUV used as a getaway car in the shooting and six-vehicle chain-reaction carnage on the neon-lit boulevard near the Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Bally's and Flamingo resorts.

Jones cited "lots of information coming at us all at once, especially on the Range Rover". He wasn't specific.

An aspiring rapper driving a Maserati was shot to death on Friday, and two people in a taxi died in a crash and fireball when the Maserati hit their vehicle.

It was the latest in a series of high-profile episodes of random violence amid the throngs of tourists that threatens Las Vegas' reputation as a town where people can cut loose with no fear of consequences.

Though crime has been falling on the glitzy stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that houses most of the city's major casinos, tourism officials worry that vacationers and convention planners could begin to steer clear of the town because of a perception of mayhem.

"We are concerned because it can create misperceptions about the safety of the city, the safety of the Strip," said Gary Thompson, spokesman for Caesars Entertainment, which owns 10 resorts in the tourist zone, including Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas.

The spate of violence started just before the new year, when a man shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, an Excalibur hotel-casino concierge clerk, before fatally shooting himself.

The following week, a blackjack dealer was wrestled to the ground at the Bellagio with razor blades in both hands. She is charged with killing a 10 year-old girl and then slashing her co-worker's face.

A nighttime shooting outside a Strip movie theatre left two people critically wounded earlier this month.

Last week, two random men allegedly assaulted a visitor in the elevator at the Mandalay Bay property, tackling him and stabbing him in such a frenzy that they also stabbed each other.

Harris, who police said was arrested last year on allegations that he was a pimp, was named at the weekend as the prime suspect in the triple homicide.

Police released a jail photo of Harris taken following his arrest in Las Vegas last year on pandering, kidnapping, sexual assault and coercion charges. The disposition of that case was not immediately known.

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Harris sometimes goes by the name Ammar Asim Faruq Harris, police said. The photo shows him with tattoos on his right cheek and words on his neck above an image that appeared to depict an owl with blackened eyes. Jones warned that Harris should be considered armed and dangerous.

Police had been searching for the black Range Rover, with blackout windows and distinctive black rims, since it was last seen speeding away from the shooting.

It was located at a gated apartment complex a couple of blocks east of the Strip, and was impounded as evidence.

Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr, was mortally wounded when the dark gray Maserati he was driving was peppered by gunfire from the SUV.

Taxi driver Michael Boldon and passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, of Maple Valley, Washington state, died in the taxi.

Boldon, 62, was a family man who moved from Michigan to Las Vegas. Sutton-Wasmund, 48, was a businesswoman and mother of three.

A passenger in the Maserati was wounded in the arm and four people from four other vehicles were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The Maserati passenger has not been identified, and police said he was cooperating with investigators.

"My son was a good boy," Kenneth Cherry Sr told reporters in a Saturday news conference convened by Las Vegas lawyers Vicki Greco and Robert Beckett.

Beckett said they wanted to respond to rumours that their 27-year-old son - who produced a rap video using the name Kenny Clutch - was a gangster and a troublemaker. The attorneys had represented his son, an unmarried father of three, and now represent his estate and family.

"My son was a victim just like the two people in that taxi," Cherry Sr said. "Trouble found him. The people in the taxicab, trouble found them."

Court records show Cherry had no criminal cases or convictions in Las Vegas, and police said there was no record of arrests

The Clark County coroner determined that Kenny Cherry died of at least one gunshot to the chest. The deaths of Cherry, Boldon and Sutton-Wasmund were ruled homicides.

Police say the shooting appeared to stem from an argument at the valet area of the upscale Aria resort-casino about a block south of the crash scene. The shooting happened after a night featuring Morocco-born rapper French Montana at Aria nightclub Haze.

Cherry's parents live in Emeryville, California, and the father said his son's body would be taken back to Oakland. He said his son started a music career there and was recognised by other rappers within a West Coast hip-hop strain called hyphy.

But Chuck Creekmur, chief executive of AllHipHop.com, said Cherry wasn't well-known in wider music circles.

Kenny Clutch's YouTube music video, Stay Schemin, shows scenes of Las Vegas Strip hotels as he sings about paying US$120,000 for his Maserati.

"One mistake change lives all in one night," he raps in one verse.

Kenneth Cherry Sr, who said he runs a cellphone business, said he last spoke with his son the day before the shooting.

Cherry Sr described his son as an entrepreneur but didn't say how he made money or if he had jobs other than his music production.

Boldon's sister, Carolyn Jean Trimble, said Boldon was a father, a grandfather and a car race enthusiast who drove a Mercedes when he wasn't in a cab.

He owned a clothing store in Detroit and worked at a car dealership, his sister said, and drove taxis after moving to Las Vegas several years ago.

In Washington state, Sutton-Wasmund co-owned a dress shop, said Debbie Tvedt, the office manager for a Maple Valley plumbing company that Sutton-Wasmund started with her husband, James Wasmund.

Sutton-Wasmund was in Las Vegas attending a trade show with her business partner.

"It's a big loss," Tvedt said in a telephone interview with AP.

A phone message left for James Wasmund was not immediately returned.

The famously glowing, always-open Las Vegas Strip was closed for some 15 hours after the crash. Nevada Highway Patrol Sergeant Eric Kemmer recalled a similarly long closure after the 1996 drive-by slaying of rapper Tupac Shakur.

That shooting - involving assailants opening fire on Shakur's luxury sedan from a vehicle on Flamingo Road - happened about a block away from the Strip crash.

The Shakur killing has never been solved.

- AP

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