More than tears flowed when the family and friends of 21-year-old Andres Elena gathered at a central valley funeral home July 6 to mourn the man who was fatally stabbed on the Strip.
Blood was also shed after an unidentified assailant mingled with the crowd outside the funeral home, pulled out a gun and began firing. When the gunshots stopped, seven people had been wounded. None suffered life-threatening injuries.
Las Vegas police almost immediately pointed to the strong possibility that the incident was gang-related.
Nearly three weeks later, no arrests have been made in one of the valley’s most high-profile shootings in recent memory.
An official with the Metropolitan Police Department said detectives are tirelessly chasing leads in hopes of apprehending the gunman.
"We realize seven people being shot is extraordinary," Gang Crimes Bureau Lt. Bruce Miyama said Tuesday. "We’re giving the investigation the utmost attention and priority."
The shootings occurred at Palm Mortuary on Main Street between Owens and Washington avenues just before 7 p.m. July 6.
Miyama said the investigation hit a hurdle early on. After the shooting, police announced they were looking for a 1970s model Chevrolet El Camino that was seen fleeing south on Main Street.
The flashy vehicle was painted purple, and the numeral 7 was also painted on it in a "smoky brown" color. It had chrome rims, police said.
Miyama said police found the car and determined that those inside were not involved in the shooting. Police think the driver fled the funeral because shots had been fired.
Detectives had not identified a suspect as of Tuesday afternoon, Miyama said. He would not disclose some details in the investigation.
Elena, who was stabbed June 25 on the Strip, was not a gang member, Miyama said, adding that there were gang members at the funeral and that funeral shootings are typical for gang members.
Elena died from injuries suffered in the stabbing on a pedestrian walkway linking the MGM Grand and New York-New York. The stabbing occurred after two groups scuffled over a comment made about a woman.
The incident occurred about 4 a.m. Elena died from wounds to his chest. Victor Quijano, 25, was arrested in connection with Elena’s death.
Miyama said police typically send officers to funerals where a gang retaliation might occur, but investigators had no indication that would occur at Elena’s funeral. Quijano was at the Clark County Detention Center during the shooting, Miyama said.
Shortly after the shooting, a police source, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Review-Journal that the shooter was trying to kill a witness in the Elena slaying, 23-year-old Steven Velasquez.
Velasquez was attending Elena’s funeral. He was not struck by gunfire, but six other adults and one teenager were hit.
Velasquez, Elena’s friend, was with him the day of the fatal stabbing. Velasquez was stabbed himself. During the fight on the Strip walkway, Velasquez is alleged to have broken a glass bottle over the head of one man.
Quijano then stabbed Elena and Velasquez, a police report said.
Quijano admitted he stabbed two people, but he contended he acted in self-defense.
Miyama said the belief that Velasquez was targeted in the funeral shooting is "speculation."
Lisa Marshall, a spokeswoman for Palm Mortuary, said she views the July 6 shootings as an "isolated and sad incident."
There are no plans to step up security at Palm funeral homes. Marshall said that while she is concerned about gang presence at funerals, the family members of the deceased are always the priority for Palm employees.
"It’s very unfortunate that anybody would bring violence into a funeral at a time when people are trying to mourn," Marshall said.
Miyama said that after the shooting, police spent hours questioning dozens of people at the funeral. Miyama said witnesses have been cooperative.
He said investigators are conducting scientific tests connected to the shooting, but he wouldn’t specify what that entailed.
Although weeks have passed since the shooting, Miyama believes the shooter will be brought to justice.
"We have a lot of witnesses, and with the scientific testing, it’s just going to take time," he said. "The hope is we get key evidence along the way."
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@review journal.com or 702-383-4638.