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Police seize SUV, name suspect in Vegas Strip shooting

The suspect has a long criminal record. The gunfire and crash left three dead: a businesswoman, cabdriver and rapper.

February 23, 2013|By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times
  • After an intense search, police impounded a Range Rover they believe was used in the Las Vegas Strip shooting attack that left three dead. They were still looking for a suspect, Ammar Harris, 26.
After an intense search, police impounded a Range Rover they believe was… (Las Vegas Metropolitan…)

Las Vegas authorities have identified a man with an extensive criminal history as the lead suspect responsible for the wild gunfire and fiery crash that left three people dead and shut down part of the famed Strip.

Police were searching for Ammar Harris, 26, also known as Ammar Asim Faruq Harris.

Meanwhile, the families of the three victims found themselves bonded by the tragedy, a collision of gun, glitz and death at one of the most famous intersections in the world.

PHOTOS: Shots fired on Vegas strip

One victim was a two-time breast-cancer survivor and businesswoman on her way to the airport. Her cabdriver, who also died, had just paid off one house and bought another; she was his first fare of the day.

The third victim was a rapper who could be described as all hype — and his former attorney means that in the best way possible.

"His lyrics were very violent, and he came across as a violent gangster rapper, which wasn't the real Kenny," Bob Beckett recalled of Ken Cherry, also known as Kenny Clutch. For eight years, Beckett handled his parking tickets — not gangbanger stuff.

The distinction matters, especially now.

"It's Hollywood. It's not real; it's pretend. But sometimes people can't distinguish between the pretend personas that are portrayed and real life," Beckett said. "And that's the danger of playing that role when it's really just an act."

Cherry, who came from a somewhat well-to-do family in Oakland, was shot dead early Thursday morning during a scenario that could have been a gang rap video, and police say Cherry's demise came at the hands of the real deal.

Harris has previously been arrested in Las Vegas on suspicion of kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery, police said. They could not say Saturday which arrests led to convictions but said he has also been arrested for being an ex-felon in possession of a gun.

"And that's just in our jurisdiction," said Las Vegas police spokesman Marcus Martin. "He has a habit of not appearing in court too."

Police think Harris got into an argument with Cherry at a valet stand at the Aria hotel and later shot Cherry in the chest during the roadway attack. Cherry's Maserati collided with a cab that then burst into flames on Las Vegas Boulevard near Flamingo Road.

The cab driver, Michael Boldon, 62, and his passenger, Sandi Sutton-Wasmund, 48, died of multiple blunt-force trauma, according to the Clark County coroner's office. Several other people were injured.

Police found Harris' black Range Rover at an east Las Vegas apartment complex on Saturday afternoon. Harris was the focus of a manhunt that had some detectives swearing off sleep.

"People are so conditioned by television," Martin said of the search, which has drawn worldwide attention. "They don't realize these things take time. It's been ramped up in ways I can't describe to you."

And that, Beckett said, is one reason why he and Cherry's family members were speaking up Saturday, to tell their side.

Cherry's father, Kenneth Cherry Sr., of Oakland, has said he wanted to dispel the image of his 27-year-old son as a gangster. He was a father of three, and Kenneth Sr. helped out Ken Jr. financially, Beckett said.

"I know when you see a Maserati, you're like, 'Oh, where did he get the money,' but when you hear the family is well-to-do, and the dad was helping with money, it helps you make sense of that," Beckett said.

"He was the victim here. He didn't fire any shots; the trouble found him, just as the trouble found the victims in the taxicab."

Sutton-Wasmund owned All Service Plumbing in Maple Valley, Wash., with her husband, Jimmy, according to the Maple Valley Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce. Sutton-Wasmund had served many roles for the chamber, including chairwoman.

In addition to being a two-time cancer survivor, friends recalled, she was a community pillar. She was Boldon's first cab fare of the day, and he was driving her to the airport, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

"He could have very easily took what they call the long route," Derrick Miller, a friend and a fellow driver at Desert Cab Inc., told the Sun, referring to a trick that would have cost his rider a higher fare.

"But Mike was going the right way. Every driver out here says if he had taken the long route, taken the tunnel, he would have still been alive," Miller said. "That just blows my mind that his last act on the planet was doing the right thing. He was giving a great ride, a fair ride, to a person. He was doing his job as an ambassador to the city and they both exited out to heaven."

matt.pearce@latimes.com

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