Ammar Harris in a booking photo from a 2012 arrest in Las Vegas. (handout )
LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas police Monday officially issued a warrant for a 26-year-old ex-convict they say is the man who unleashed a predawn barrage of gunfire into a Maserati on the Strip last week, resulting in a fireball crash that killed three people.
"We can say with certainty that Ammar Harris is the suspect who fired the fatal shots," Police Capt. Chris Jones said at an afternoon news conference.
Officials say their campaign to bring Harris to justice will include displaying his mugshot on southern Nevada billboards. Over the weekend, police released a photo of Harris taken after his arrest last year in Las Vegas in a 2010 prostitution case.
The photo shows the suspect staring into the camera, with recognizable tattoos on his right cheek and an image on his neck that appears to depict an owl with blackened eyes.
The Associated Press reported that public records show Harris previously lived in South Carolina and Georgia, and told a police officer when he was arrested in Miami Beach in December that he had lived in Florida for about a year.
Las Vegas police say Harris was convicted in 2004 in Orangeburg, S.C., of felony possession with intent to sell a stolen pistol.
Perhaps to emphasize the importance of the case, Clark County Dist. Atty. Steve Wolfson attended the news conference.
Harris used the name Ammar Asim Faruq Harris when he was arrested in May in Las Vegas in the June 2010 case. He was charged with robbery, sexual assault, kidnapping and coercion with a weapon.
Harris was allegedly driving a black Range Rover when he fired shots into a Maserati before dawn Thursday, killing aspiring rapper Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr. of Oakland, who had recently moved to Las Vegas. Cherry’s sports car crashed into a taxi that exploded on impact, killing the cabdriver and his passenger: Michael Boldon, 62, of Las Vegas and passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Wash.
Police still cannot say what caused the taxi to explode.
"This is an ongoing investigation, so we’re still looking into everything," spokesman Jose Hernandez told the Los Angeles Times, saying the force of the impact may have played a role.
“Cars typically don’t catch on fire that way; it just sounds like this was a pretty hard" impact, Hernandez said. "As far as what exactly caused the fire … we don’t know, and that’s certainly being investigated right now.”
The shooting followed an alleged verbal confrontation at a valet stand outside the Aria hotel and resort. Police say they think Harris was the only shooter.
At the news conference, Jones emphasized that authorities would pursue anyone who tried to hide Harris.
"To anyone who is aware of his location or is assisting Ammar Harris in any way, you will be arrested and prosecuted," he said. "You may think you're being a friend, but keep in mind Ammar Harris is wanted for the murder of three citizens."
The SUV allegedly driven by Harris was found Saturday in the garage of a gated apartment complex near the Strip, near an apartment where police believe Harris had been living.
The manhunt spans four states.
“We know he’s out there. We know there are people who are potentially helping him,” Hernandez told The Times. “If you know where he is, this is a violent criminal. Call us; you can remain anonymous.”