The Las Vegas Strip is embedded in national lore — intrepid gamblers hoping to leave with pockets full of cash and tireless partiers looking to escape their lives for a brief moment. It’s the city’s main drag on which life is lived as much outside as it is inside the casinos and bars. But in recent months, the Strip has been the scene of tourists’ greatest fear: violent crime.
On Thursday, three people were killed in a shooting and crash after an altercation at the nearby Aria Resort and Casino spilled out onto the street. A Maserati, driven by 27-year-old aspiring rapper Kenny Cherry — who went by the hip-hop moniker Kenny Clutch — was fired on by people in a Range Rover SUV. Police say he was shot dead, causing him to crash into a taxicab driven by Michael Boldon, 62. The impact caused an explosion that killed Boldon and an unidentified passenger at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, one of the city’s best-known intersections, leaving it closed temporarily while police investigated.
Although it shocked those still out on the Strip at 4 a.m., a time not uncommon for the partiers of Sin City, it is the latest in a series of homicides stretching back to at least December. Police have been careful not to call it a trend, instead insisting that crime is on the decline in the area, but such violent shootings certainly spark fear in tourists, who presume they’ll be safe among the Nevada city’s dazzling lights and endless entertainment.
“What happened on the Strip today will not be tolerated,” said Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie. “There are no absolutes when people’s behavior is in question.” But his statement is perhaps dulled after several other fatal Strip shootings recently.
On Dec. 14, Edward Brandt, a 31-year-old Illinois man, shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Jessica Kenny, 30, in the lobby of the Excalibur Hotel and Casino before shooting himself to death, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Police said Brandt still harbored negative feelings about his and Kenny’s breakup, which happened more than two years ago. While the shooting was an isolated incident, hundreds of people were in the hotel lobby at the time, leading many to run screaming when the shooting broke out.
Just a week later, on Dec. 21, at the Bellagio, blackjack dealer Joyce Rhone, 44, suffered serious wounds to her face from razor blades allegedly wielded by Brenda Stokes Wilson, 50, who sought out the casino worker because she believed she was involved with her ex-fiancé. She even told police that she would have killed the woman if she hadn’t been stopped. She was later charged with kidnapping and murdering her ex-fiancé’s 10-year-old daughter.
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On Feb. 6, a gunman thought to be jealous of 18-year-old Jeremy Miller’s relationship with a woman, ambushed and shot him in a parking-garage elevator at the United Artists Theatre. He survived but was left paralyzed. Two of Miller’s friends were also wounded. Police arrested Devante Jeffers, 18, on attempted-murder charges, and a 21-year-old man who is suspected of pulling the trigger is still at large, according to KLAS-TV.
Finally, on Feb. 18, Trent Wilcox, 25, and Carlos Heredia-Avalos, 23, were arrested after Eric Miller was stabbed in an elevator inside the Hotel at Mandalay Bay. After an altercation, the two restrained Miller and stabbed him 10 times, police say. Miller’s wife, who was also in the elevator, pressed the emergency button to summon hotel security. Miller was hospitalized with wounds to his arm and chest, KTNV-TV reported.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority released a statement quoting police statistics that showed violent crime on the Strip was down about 13% in 2012 and 11% so far in 2013. The organization called the incidents “isolated” and said Las Vegas continues to be safe.