What started the tension between a boastful pimp and an aspiring rapper at a posh Strip resort that culminated in three deaths on the iconic Strip last week remains unclear, but the multistate manhunt for the fugitive gunman ended Thursday with his arrest near Los Angeles, authorities said.
On the morning of Feb. 21, Ammar Harris and Kenneth Cherry Jr. only had a 15-minute window in which they crossed paths, a Las Vegas police report said.
During their brief encounter at Aria at CityCenter, Harris, 26, became so angry with Cherry, 27, that he took his rage to the streets as the two men pulled out of the resort’s valet in their luxury vehicles.
Harris fired at least five rounds from the driver’s seat of his Range Rover at Cherry’s Maserati on Las Vegas Boulevard near Flamingo Road, the report said.
The shooting ignited a domino-effect crash in which a fatally wounded Cherry drove into a taxicab, causing a fireball explosion.
The chaos ended with three deaths and launched a search for Harris, who sped away with three women in the Range Rover.
Although the police report didn’t say what Harris and Cherry argued about, law enforcement sources said the beef was over a working girl.
“It was all prostitution stuff,” a source said.
Harris was arrested about noon Thursday in Studio City in Los Angeles.
During his arrest, he was at an apartment with a woman believed to be a prostitute, a source said. He was taken into custody peacefully at the Archview luxury apartment complex near the Hollywood Freeway and the Los Angeles River, at 4150 Arch Drive.
Harris was arrested by a team of FBI agents and police.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said during an afternoon press conference that Harris’ arrest was a “multi-agency approach” between his department’s homicide unit, and the Criminal Apprehension Team fugitive task force, as well as Los Angeles police and the FBI.
Gillespie said three people died because of Harris’ “senseless act.”
Cherry was killed by a gunshot. Cabdriver Michael Boldon, 62, and his passenger, Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Wash., died in the explosion.
Freddy Walters, 26, the passenger in Cherry’s Maserati, was grazed by a bullet and treated at University Medical Center. He cooperated with police. Three other people also were injured.
Gillespie said Thursday’s arrest was about more than detaining Harris. It was about keeping Southern Nevadans and tourists safe.
“I hope anyone out there watching understands clearly, if you live in this city, if you work in this city or 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,” Gillespie said while speaking of Harris.
NEW DETAILS OF INCIDENT
The police report said Harris arrived at the Aria about 1:30 a.m. with three women. They were escorted into the Haze nightclub.
Cherry and Walters arrived shortly before 4 a.m., and were in Cherry’s Maserati leaving the valet only 15 minutes later.
Harris approached the driver’s door of Cherry’s Maserati, paused for a second or two, and then continued into the Aria lobby, the report said.
At 4:16 a.m., Harris drove out of the Aria valet and then east on Harmon Avenue toward Las Vegas Boulevard.
The report said Harris and Cherry next saw each other at a traffic light on eastbound Harmon near the Strip.
A taxicab’s video caught Harris’ Range Rover as it pulled in front of Cherry’s Maserati when the vehicles prepared to turn north on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Harris then began unleashing his anger toward Cherry.
“The driver of the Ranger Rover (Harris) rolled his window down and began yelling at the driver of the Maserati (Cherry),” the report said without detailing the exchange.
The taxi camera recorded the sounds of two gunshots at 4:19 a.m. Shortly after, three more gunshots are heard on the video.
The single, fatal shot to Cherry struck his left shoulder, and perforated his chest, the report said. He died at UMC less than 30 minutes after the shooting.
Cherry, went by the rap persona “Kenny Clutch.” He rapped on YouTube videos about a life of drugs, guns and pimping.
But Cherry’s father told the Review-Journal his son was an innocent victim.
Kenneth Cherry Sr., 52, said Thursday through an attorney he was elated by Harris’ arrest. He buried his son Thursday.
Cherry Sr. said last week his son was a good kid who was only playing a tough guy in his amateur videos. He said his son was not a bad guy.
“It’s like somebody took my heart and snatched it out of my chest,” said the tearful father. “This has touched home in a way I wouldn’t wish on nobody.”
Child custody documents in Clark County family court paint a different picture of Cherry Jr., showing a violent man who chased down the mother of one of his children and beat her so hard that she started to see “stars.”
The allegations were made in September 2011 in an affidavit that stems from a child custody dispute.
FAMILY RELIEVED BY ARREST
Family members of other victims were relieved Harris was arrested, saying they planned to attend Harris’ court hearings.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Tehran Boldon, 50, on Thursday. He bid farewell to his brother Wednesday at a church in North Las Vegas, where Michael Boldon, the cab driver, was carried away in a silver casket. “The sooner they caught him the better. And I’m really happy that they got him alive. That was really important to me and my family. Now he’s going to have to face the music, and it won’t be rap, either.”
From Maple Valley, Wash., Sue VanRuff, a good friend of Sutton-Wasmund, said the entire community is “heartbroken,” but that at least now there might be some justice.
“I’m glad the police caught up with him,” said VanRuff, executive director of the Greater Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce, where Sutton-Wasmund worked as an independent contractor. “And we look forward to justice.”
Sutton-Wasmund was in Las Vegas attending a trade show.
A massive search ensued for the shooting suspect, a felon and proclaimed pimp. Billboards went up in Las Vegas as police sought the public’s help in catching Harris, who bragged about his lifestyle openly on Twitter.
Investigators submitted an arrest warrant for Harris on three counts of murder last week. Harris, under the name Ammar Asim Faruq Harris, was arrested in Las Vegas for a 2010 prostitution case. He faced multiple charges, including robbery, sex assault, kidnapping and coercion with a weapon, in that case. It was dismissed in June 2012.
In 2004, Harris was convicted in South Carolina on a felony charge of possession with intent to sell a stolen pistol.
After the Strip shooting, the Range Rover was caught on Venetian surveillance video heading toward Koval Lane.
Police found the SUV on Saturday at The Meridian, the Las Vegas condominium complex where Harris lived.
Before the shooting, Harris openly boasted about his life as a pimp on social media websites, where he instructed his prostitutes and recruited new girls.
In a Twitter feed spanning several years, Harris flashed stacks of $100 bills and high-powered guns.
He flaunted expensive cars — a Bentley, an Aston Martin and a BMW — and reveled in luxury homes in two of the country’s most glamorous cities.
He didn’t just celebrate his birthday; he planned a boat party on the Atlantic Ocean, with a $1,000 bikini contest and a poster featuring beautiful women.
His Twitter account, deleted Tuesday after the Review-Journal reviewed a year’s worth of tweets, paint a picture of an ambitious, controlling man who demeaned women and was undaunted by police, the courts or the dangers of his lifestyle.
Passenger no longer sought
Harris’ arrest came after Las Vegas police announced Wednesday night that a passenger in his car, 22-year-old Yenesis Alfonzo, also known as Tineesha Lashun Howard, was no longer being sought as a person of interest.
A source told the Review-Journal that Alfonzo was on a bus when she was stopped by authorities Wednesday somewhere in the southwestern United States.
She was headed home to Miami, the source said.
Police said they spoke to three female passengers in Harris’ Range Rover and none were expected be prosecuted.
Alfonzo has an arrest record that includes soliciting prostitution, trick roll, grand larceny and possession of a stolen vehicle.
The Los Angeles Times reported at least one other woman inside Harris’ Range Rover had a similar record.
Las Vegas investigators suspected Harris may have fled to California when they discovered his phone records showed he was communicating with people in the state, the Times also reported.
Las Vegas police said they were in touch with FBI and Los Angeles authorities throughout their search for Harris. Hundreds of tips were investigated by detectives, police said.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Harris, who is facing nearly a dozen charges including three counts of murder, won’t be given any leniency.
He called Harris’ actions “reckless,” with no regard for human life.
“I can’t imagine anything more serious than firing a weapon from a moving vehicle into another moving vehicle on a corner such as Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo,” Wolfson said. “Thank God only three people lost their lives. ... It could have been worse.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal. com or 702-383-4638. Contact reporter Tom Ragan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5512. Contact reporter Mike Blasky at email@example.com or 702-383-0283.