Shootings at casino, hospital linked to gang

A gunfight that started at a casino parking garage and followed the wounded to the hospital Sunday was probably triggered by gang members known to frequent one of the casino’s nightclubs.

Sources said the early morning shootings involved the Wood gang, a notoriously violent organization whose members were accused in the fatal shooting of off-duty Las Vegas police officer Trevor Nettleton in 2009.

Three people were hospitalized after the brazen 4 a.m. shootout on the fourth floor of the Rio hotel parking garage.

Police don’t know how many people were involved, but at least 30 rounds were fired, and 10 vehicles were damaged, during the barrage of gunfire at the resort just west of the Strip.

One of the men may have been shot by a Las Vegas police officer responding to the scene.

Deputy Chief Jim Owens said the officer, who was not identified Monday, believed the men were also firing at police. The officer fired several shots at who he thought was an armed man running toward him.

"He (the officer) is seeing the muzzle flash, and there’s certainly a lot of gunfire still continuing," Owens said at a news conference. "The officer fired several rounds, and the subject went down immediately.

Police don’t know whether the officer shot the 22-year-old North Las Vegas man or whether he was injured earlier during the shootout. The man did not have a gun.

The man was taken to University Medical Center. A wounded 24-year-old man was also found by officers and taken to UMC, and a third man, also 24 years old, later showed up at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

But the violence wasn’t over. Owens said that about 5:30 a.m., three men approached a group of 30 to 40 people who had gathered outside UMC’s trauma center in support of the injured men.

The suspects began firing into the crowd, injuring a 19-year-old North Las Vegas man and a 22-year-old Las Vegas man. The shooters then fled. A firearm and several shell casings were recovered by police.

All five men were expected to survive, Owens said. Four of the five victims had documented gang affiliations, although police would not officially comment on specific gangs. Everyone injured had been involved in the dispute.

No one has been charged in the incident, but police on Monday were sifting through two vehicles that were in the parking garage.

Additional officers were stationed at UMC on Monday to monitor the injured men, which Owens said is common after a gang shooting.

"We want to ensure something like this does not happen again," he said.

But a police presence doesn’t always discourage criminals. Owens acknowledged that several detectives were inside UMC and a patrol car was in the parking lot during the second shooting.

There was also a police presence during the first shooting. Owens said six officers and a police sergeant had been working overtime at Crown Theater, a Rio nightclub known for Saturday hip-hop shows.

Owens said it’s unknown whether the shootout began because of a dispute inside the club, but he added that Crown’s management had been working with police to prevent those kinds of incidents.

"It’s because of their concern that we do have officers working overtime there," he said.

Several police sources who asked not to be identified said that Crown was a known hangout for the Wood gang and that a regular police presence was requested by management after an incident several months ago.

"One of the things Rio did is they started a contract with us for their events," the source said. "They didn’t want things to get out of control."

A second police source acknowledged Wood as a significant problem and said the group is behind a large chunk of the gang crime in the valley.

This was not the first gang-related shooting originating from the Rio.

On Jan. 24, 2011, two people were injured after being shot during a high-speed car chase on Interstate 15. Their car then crashed.

Their names were not released, and it was unclear whether anyone was arrested in the incident, but police said the two were gang members who had been involved in a dispute at Crown. It was unknown whether those men were Wood gang members.

A woman who answered the phone at Crown declined to comment.

The members of the Wood gang accused of involvement in Nettleton’s death are being held at the Clark County jail on murder charges. A trial has not been scheduled.

The last high-profile gang shooting was in July when a gunman wounded seven people attending a funeral for a slaying victim, 21-year-old Andres Elena.

No one has been arrested in that shooting.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@ or 702-383-0283.

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