(Adds reported identification of taxi passenger, 5th paragraph)
By Dan Whitcomb
Feb 22 (Reuters) - A multi-state manhunt was under way on Friday for the men who shot dead an aspiring rapper as he drove on the Las Vegas Strip in a Maserati, touching off a fiery crash that killed a cab driver and his passenger.
Las Vegas police have not named any suspects in the dramatic pre-dawn shooting in the heart of the desert resort city on Thursday, but said they were still hunting for a black Range Rover used in the incident.
One or more gunmen in the apparently brand-new luxury sport utility vehicle opened fire on a silver Maserati being driven by 27-year-old Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr. at the busy intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road.
Cherry, who performed under the name “Kenny Clutch,” was slain and his car veered out of control before smashing into a taxicab. Killed in the cab were driver Michael Bolden, 62, and a passenger who has not been identified by authorities.
Las Vegas television station KTNV reported that the taxi passenger killed in the incident was identified by her family as Sandi Sutton, a Washington state woman who worked for a Seattle-area chamber of commerce.
The gunfire and collision in the busy intersection near the Bellagio and Caesars Palace hotels triggered another crash involving four other vehicles. At least four people were hurt.
“As you can imagine our detectives are working non-stop,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police spokesman Officer Jose Hernandez said. “There’s lots of information coming in, lots of leads being generated that we’re sifting through, and our investigation is moving forward.”
Hernandez said Las Vegas police had asked authorities in neighboring states to assist in the manhunt and to be on the lookout for the black Range Rover, which was described as carrying paper dealer plates.
He said a passenger in Cherry’s car, who suffered a minor injury, had spoken to police.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told a Thursday news conference that the shooting may have stemmed from an altercation between Cherry and the suspects in the valet area of the Aria Resort and Casino on the Strip.
Hernandez declined to elaborate on that incident, saying that it was part of the ongoing investigation.
Attorney Vicki Greco, who has represented Cherry for what she described as minor traffic issues and in a civil case, told Reuters that his family was “devastated.”
“I can tell you this, the world has lost a good man,” Cherry’s aunt, Pat Sims, told the San Jose Mercury News for a story on its website.
“I’m not saying he didn’t have his faults, but he was very kind, especially to older people,” Sims, 75, told the paper. “Whatever happened in Vegas, I don’t know about, but he was a very kind soul.”
The incident occurred less than a mile from where rapper Tupac Shakur was 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. His murder remains unsolved. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bernard Orr and Paul Simao)