As more than a hundred friends and family members gathered Thursday night in a park across from the high school athletic fields where Michael Alano Portaro thrived, an unusually large shooting star suddenly filled the sky.
The onlookers, holding candles and telling somber stories about their fallen friend, gasped in unison at the sight.
"Wow, that gave me chills," one said.
"Insane,'' another added. "That had to be him."
A half an hour earlier, Ron Portaro had called his nephew the star that had shone brightest in the lives of his many loved ones.
Now, they had proof.
Portaro, 22, a 2006 graduate of Faith Lutheran Junior/Senior High School in the west valley, was gunned down at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday outside the Tenaya Creek Brewery, 3101 N. Tenaya Way near Cheyenne Avenue.
Police said he was at the bar's parking lot selling tickets to a Thursday night show in Henderson, where his hip-hop group, Ekoh, was to perform at Daddy Mac's restaurant.
Across town from the vigil, before taking the stage in a tribute to his slain partner, Jeff Thompson, who also goes by the name Ekoh, recalled Portaro as the nicest guy he's ever met.
Thompson rapped while Portaro, known as Mikey P., danced and provided "stage domination" for what Thompson called an underground band vastly different from mainstream rap's focus on money, drugs and the fast life.
Thompson said he doesn't believe their music had anything to do with the slaying. He said Portaro encountered a "coward with a gun," intent on robbery.
"To blame the music we do for some act like this is completely false," Thompson said. "If you think it's because of our music, you haven't heard our music."
Thompson said he was with Portaro just an hour before the shooting.
Word of Portaro's death spread quickly earlier in the day, sending ripples through the Faith Lutheran community, where he played quarterback for the school's football team. His younger brother, Joe, was also quarterback of the small private school's team, and will play for UNLV in the fall.
"We're absolutely shocked," said Sarah Heislen, a middle school principal and spokeswoman. "We're all very grieved."
Las Vegas police Homicide Lt. Lew Roberts said Portaro wasn't seen inside the bar before he was shot.
"It certainly didn't seem like he was doing anything wrong," Roberts said. "He was just trying to sell tickets."
Police initially said robbery was an unlikely motive because Portaro was found with money on his person, but last night they confirmed that the dead man's car was seen being driven from the bar parking lot and was recovered later.
Police have no suspects or even a good description of the shooter, Roberts said. It's unclear whether there are more suspects.
Roberts said no one in the bar heard the gunfire, and the body was discovered some time later by people going out the front door.
Karl Herrera, general manager of the Tenaya Creek Brewery, said he reviewed parking lot surveillance video that sheds some light on the slaying.
Herrera said the footage showed that Portaro drove into the parking lot and backed his four-door sedan into a parking space. Later he is seen standing near his car, speaking to a few patrons as they left the bar, apparently trying to sell tickets.
Portaro is also seen speaking to occupants of another sedan that pulled into the parking lot.
As that car drove away, Herrera said, Portaro got into his own car, leaving the door open. At that point, a man sitting on a nearby bench gets up and briskly walks toward Portaro's car.
Herrera said the next image was of Portaro's car leaving the parking lot. Portaro's body can be seen slumped on the pavement. The video did not capture the shooting and does not have audio, he said. Nor is it close enough to provide a good look at the man who approached the car, Herrera said.
Herrera said Portaro had not set foot inside the bar, and he doesn't believe the other man seen on the tape had, either.
Herrera said he is saddened by the shooting and how it will affect Portaro's loved ones.
"As a parent, I can't imagine how they feel right now," Herrera said.
Richard and Cynthia Portaro attended their son's vigil, Cynthia clutching Mike's varsity football jacket tightly to her.
Both parents, along with Mike's brother, Joe, and sister, Christina, a sophomore at Faith Lutheran, told stories about Mike.
Richard told the audience the vigil was "the first time I smiled all day."
Also in attendance was a puppy Mike had bought the week before. Friends said the name of the puppy didn't matter, because the family will now call it Mikey P.
Ron Portaro said his nephew had three families: the Portaros, his Faith Lutheran family and his music family.
"We all loved him dearly, and we're going to miss him severely," he said.
"There never has been two parents who loved a son more than my brother and his wife loved Michael."
Across town at Daddy Mac's, a line of more than 50 people stretched out the back door prior to the show.
Ché Brooks, a rapper who goes by the stage name Chemist, said he met Portaro through the valley's hip-hop scene about a year ago. He said he was stunned to learn of the slaying.
"It's horrible," Brooks said. "No one knows why it happened."
Mike Davis, a rapper known as Devastate, said Portaro was as real as they come.
"It wasn't smoke and mirrors with him," Davis said. "He was a very genuine human being."
Davis said Portaro was "supporting his dream" until the moment his life was taken.