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Report: Shooting victim targeted after argument in Las Vegas lounge

The crime scene was riddled with bullet holes, a sign of a violent attack.

Twenty-three shell casings would later be collected, found littered throughout the joint parking lot of the Stateside Lounge and the Stateside Express convenience store on the northwest corner of Washington Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South, the site of three homicides in as many months.

In the June 22 killing — the most recent of the three this year — Michael C. Johnson, 48, became a target after arguing with a gang member inside the Stateside Lounge who was apparently “talking to his daughter,” according to a Metropolitan Police Department arrest report.

Security footage at the bar shows Johnson left just before 3:50 a.m., unaware that an armed man, later identified by police as 43-year-old Jerry Fitzgerald Jr., was following him into the parking lot.

Taking cover behind two pillars, Fitzgerald, holding a 9mm handgun in his right hand, opened fire on Johnson, according to his arrest report. Struck multiple times, Johnson fired five rounds from his own handgun in self-defense but died less than an hour later at University Medical Center.

After the initial shootout, Fitzgerald walked away and out of the security camera’s view but soon returned with two other armed men, briefly coming back into the camera’s view as he ran south from the bar.

Evidence at the scene indicated that as he ran, at least 13 more rounds were fired at Johnson, who, by then, was lying on the ground and bleeding, the report said.

In the following days, police received several tips that a man known as “Shady” had killed Johnson for his friend and fellow gang member — the same man Johnson had apparently been fighting with. The tipsters also provided police with a link to Shady’s Facebook profile, under the name “Jerry Shady Makk Fitzgerald,” which later helped detectives link Fitzgerald to the shooting.

He was arrested three days after the shooting on one count of murder at an apartment complex on the 1800 block of West Alexander Road, police call logs show. Denied bail, he has remained in custody at the Clark County Detention Center and was expected in court Wednesday morning for a status hearing.

The Stateside businesses are owned by a family trust in Manhattan Beach, California, according to Clark County business property records.

The first of three killings at the Stateside business complex happened on March 23, when Howard Chris Drew, 66, was found stabbed to death just outside the lounge. The suspect in his death, Reshard Vargas, 39, was arrested in April and was being held without bail Tuesday at the Clark County Detention Center, where he was awaiting a status hearing in the case, records show.

About a week after Drew’s killing, just next door at the Stateside Express convenience store, 56-year-old Robert Lee Cook was gunned down during a “beer skip” by a clerk, who was later arrested on one count of murder.

Police have said Cook and a woman took off with at least three cases of beer, and a manager and the clerk, 26-year-old Suse Antunez-Garcia, followed the two outside. After a brief struggle, Antunez-Garcia shot Cook, police have said.

Currently out on bail, records show, Antunez-Garcia was expected in court Wednesday for a status hearing.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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