Driver found dead after police pursuit identified


A 30-year-old Las Vegas car salesman was near death - or perhaps dead - behind the wheel during a short police chase in the central valley Sunday.

The Clark County coroner's office identified him Monday as Tito Cleveland and said he died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Las Vegas police discovered his body in the driver's seat of a Nissan Maxima in what is one of the agency's most bizarre homicides in recent memory. Investigators think Cleveland was shot in his car.

An officer noticed Cleveland's maroon Maxima when it drove through a red light at Martin Luther King and Lake Mead boulevards at 6:09 p.m.

The car appeared to be steering itself as it struck three cars. Only after it stopped did the officer realize that Cleveland was slouched in the driver's seat. Cleveland was pronounced dead at the scene.

He apparently left his foot on the accelerator as the officer gave chase in the haphazard pursuit.

Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said Sunday night police had little information to work with.

"We want to know what happened," Steiber said. "We don't know how long he had been unconscious. We don't know how long prior to this coming to an end had he been shot."

Reached Monday morning, Steiber said police had no leads on a shooter or shooters.

Allen McFarland, a salesman at United Nissan near Sahara Avenue and McLeod Drive, said Cleveland rose through the ranks at United after working with the company six or seven years.

McFarland said Cleveland was a "very nice person" who was selfless, to the point that if colleagues needed rides home, he would offer to drive them.

"He had his head on right," McFarland said of Cleveland. "He was a hard worker and did what he was supposed to do."

A Las Vegas police officer first spotted Cleveland's Maxima driving south on Martin Luther King. No one was seen in the driver's seat, Steiber said.

The officer tailed the Maxima with his patrol vehicle as the Maxima continued south, Steiber said. The Maxima hit two vehicles, then jumped a median and crossed the northbound lanes. It continued south, crossing the northbound lanes before entering a parking lot on the east side of Martin Luther King, police said.

The chase didn't end there. The Maxima veered back onto Martin Luther King in the northbound lanes and continued south at which point it struck a third vehicle. The collision occurred near Jimmy Avenue and Martin Luther King.

When the Maxima came to a stop, the officer peered inside and saw what the problem was: Cleveland was slouched in the driver's seat after being shot more than once.

Steiber said the pursuit lasted 10 to 15 seconds. No one else was injured.

The Maxima's driver's side was struck by bullets.

Steiber said police received 911 calls of gunshots just before the officer spotted the Maxima. The calls were made from north of the Martin Luther King, Lake Mead intersection.

McFarland, 26, said he has known Cleveland since their days in elementary school. He said Cleveland was most likely visiting relatives before his shooting. He said Cleveland graduated from Mojave High School and had several brothers and sisters who survived him.

McFarland, who has spoken with police, said he still can't believe how Cleveland's life came to an end. He last saw Cleveland on Saturday when he worked from 8:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. He said morale is down at work.

"We lost a real good dude," McFarland said. "He was somebody that meant a lot to this company and meant a lot to me."

Review-Journal writer Kyle Potter contributed to this report. Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.

 

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