LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A man accused of gunning down an aspiring rapper as he drove on the Las Vegas Strip last week, touching off a fiery car crash that also killed two other people, was arrested in Los Angeles on Thursday after an exhaustive multi-state manhunt.
Ammar Harris, 26, surrendered at an apartment in the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles after it was surrounded by members of a joint Los Angeles police and FBI task force, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Lieutenant Ray Steiber said.
“Officers and detectives converged on that area, he was challenged to come out of that area and he did peacefully,” Steiber told a news conference. “He was taken into custody.”
Police accuse Harris of opening fire in the pre-dawn hours of February 21 from a black Range Rover on the Maserati being driven by 27-year-old Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr. in an intersection at the heart of the Strip, near several casino resort hotels.
Cherry, who performed under the name “Kenny Clutch,” was fatally wounded and his sports car veered out of control, colliding with a taxicab. The cab exploded into flames, killing driver Michael Bolden, 62, and his passenger Sandi Sutton-Wasmund, 48.
Harris was booked into Los Angeles County Jail, where he was being held without bail pending an extradition hearing scheduled for Monday morning.
Steiber declined to say how police tracked Harris to the North Hollywood apartment or how long they believed he had been there, but said he had left Las Vegas soon after the high-profile shooting in the heart of the desert resort city.
“Mr. Harris was a fleeing felon,” Steiber said. “He left Las Vegas shortly after this event occurred. He did leave Las Vegas pretty rapidly.”
Steiber said there were three other people in the brand new Range Rover, which still sported paper dealer plates, at the time of the shooting but that none of them were facing charges. The sport utility vehicle was impounded earlier this week.
“The only shooter involved in this heinous crime was Mr. Harris,” Steiber said.
One of those passengers has been identified as 22-year-old Yenesis Alfonzo, also known as Tineesha Howard, who was cleared as a “person of interest” in the case earlier on Thursday.
Police officials have said the shooting may have stemmed from a verbal altercation in the valet area of the Aria resort and Casino, a few blocks away on the Strip.
But Steiber said during the press conference that there was no apparent relationship between Harris and Cherry.
According to police, Harris has a long criminal history that includes arrests for robbery, sexual assault, kidnapping, pandering and soliciting prostitution. Police have said they believed he was involved in the sex trade.
“I hope anyone out there watching understands clearly that if you live in this city, if you work this city or if you visit this city and you act like this person we will find you, we will prosecute you and we will send you to prison,” Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said.
On the day of the shooting, Gillespie had publicly bristled at suggestions that the outburst of gun violence could call into question the safety of the Strip, a popular tourist destination that attracts millions of visitors each year.
Earlier this week, taxi companies pledged $35,000 toward a reward fund leading to the arrest and conviction of Harris. It was not immediately clear on Thursday if anyone would be eligible to claim that money.
Cherry’s slaying took place less than a mile from where rapper Tupac Shakur was fatally shot in September 1996 while riding in a BMW with Death Row Records co-founder Marion “Suge” Knight after the two men had attended a Mike Tyson boxing match.
Shakur, 25, was hit by gunfire from at least one assailant in a Cadillac while sitting in Knight’s car at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane and died six days later at a hospital. That crime remains unsolved.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Matthew Lewis, Bernard Orr and Lisa Shumaker