In a scene witnesses describe as looking like a Hollywood set, a confrontation between a group of men escalated into a shooting, multiple vehicle pileup, and an exploding taxicab. The incident left three people dead. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.
The driver of a Maserati that was shot up early Thursday morning on Las Vegas’ famed Strip, causing the vehicle to crash into a taxi cab and leading to a deadly explosion, was a 27-year-old aspiring rapper, according to his family.
Three people were killed and at least six injured as a result of the 4:30 a.m. shooting and subsequent car crashes in a section of the Strip that includes Caesars Palace, Bally’s and the Bellagio.
The shooting came after the occupants of a Range Rover and the Maserati got into an altercation in the valet area of the Aria hotel and casino, according to Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie.
“We have numerous witnesses to this,” Las Vegas Police Sgt. John Sheahan said. “But what is the genesis of this? We don’t know yet.”
A major manhunt is under way for the occupants of the Range Rover.
Kenny “Clutch” Cherry of Oakland, Calif. was at the wheel of the Maserati, his father told NBCBayArea.com on Thursday, when a black Range Rover with tinted windows and black rims pulled up and allegedly opened fire near a stoplight in the pre-dawn hours.
A passenger was injured by the gunfire and Cherry was killed, causing the car to spin out of control. The careening silver Maserati smashed into a taxicab, trapping the passenger and driver and causing the cab to burst into flames; both occupants were killed, police said. Then, the Maserati smashed into three other cars before coming to a stop.
The Maserati driver was a Chico State dropout who had gone to Las Vegas to pursue a rap career, father Kenneth Cherry, Sr., told NBCBayArea.com. He had filmed a music video on the Strip featuring his Maserati just months before. Cherry left behind three children, including a toddler and 2-month-old baby girl.
“I heard there was some sort of disagreement and the guys pulled to the side of him, and rolled their window down, and he rolled his window down,” Cherry said. “They just started shooting. My son for the record did not have any guns in his car. There was no gun battle. Nothing like that.”
Attorney Vicki Greco told Reuters she had represented the deceased Cherry in a civil case and a few traffic issues.
The Clark County Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner confirmed Cherry's identity and said he died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
The taxi driver was identified as Michael Boldon, 62, of Las Vegas. His passenger was Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Wash. Both died of "multiple blunt force injuries," the office said.
All three deaths were classified as homicide.
In Las Vegas, visitors and law enforcement reacted with shock to the violent spectacle. The Strip has seen other recent incidents of violence, including a man who fired a gun inside the Circus Circus casino on New Year’s Eve and a parking garage shooting on Feb. 6.
“We get stabbings and gang violence,” Mark Thompson, a visitor from Manchester, England, told The Associated Press, “but this is like something out of a movie. Like ‘Die Hard’ or something.”
Officers are searching for the Range Rover with paper dealership plates and its male African-American occupants, police said. They are combing through surveillance tape for clues.
“Finding those involved is a top priority for my agency and law enforcement here in southern Nevada,” Sheriff Douglas Gillespie of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told NBC affiliate KSNV.
This story was originally published on Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:19 AM EST