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Prominent Las Vegas attorney among 3 killed in Summerlin shooting

Updated April 17, 2024 - 10:40 pm

A prominent Las Vegas attorney and his wife were fatally shot Monday during a deposition at a law office in Summerlin before the gunman took his own life.

Update: Gunman spared pregnant lawyer in fatal shooting, document says

Authorities have not released the names of those involved, but others have identified the victims as longtime lawyer Dennis Prince and his new wife, Ashley, who was involved in a custody dispute with her ex-husband.

“I’m devastated,” Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford wrote on the social network X. “Dennis Prince was not only a brilliant attorney, but he was also my former law partner and my friend. I can’t believe he’s gone. I’m extremely saddened by his and Ashley’s death, and my heart goes out to their families, especially their children.”

Another former law partner, Robert Eglet, called Prince “one of the best trial lawyers in the state” and said he had known Prince for about 30 years.

“It’s a real loss to the community,” Eglet said. “It’s awful. It’s a loss to our profession. … This is every family’s nightmare, something like this happening. I’m still trying to put my arms around the fact that this actually happened.”

Eglet and other Las Vegas attorneys identified the gunman as longtime lawyer Joseph W. Houston II. Eglet said Houston took his own life.

Court records show that Dylan Edward Houston, who also is a lawyer in Las Vegas, filed for divorce from Ashley in October 2021 after a four-year marriage.

A divorce decree issued a month later granted the pair joint physical and legal custody of two children.

Dennis Prince represented Ashley, who was identified as Ashley Prince in court records last month.

‘Very specific targets’

Political consultant Tom Letizia said he considered Dennis Prince “a good friend and loving man.”

“We are deeply saddened by the devastating news of the passing of Dennis Prince, a distinguished attorney who was regarded as one of the finest in our state,” Letizia wrote in a text message. “Dennis was not only a close friend of mine but also a respected figure within our community, whose absence has left us all in mourning. The news of this tragedy has profoundly shocked me and our entire community.”

According to Letizia, Dennis and Ashley had a daughter who was born in January, after the couple had married. Eglet said Dennis Prince had three other children, including two who are adults, from prior relationships.

Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Jason Johansson said at a news conference Monday evening that the gunman was in his 70s. He said the male victim was in his 50s, and the female victim was in her 30s.

Police said the shooting occurred at about 10 a.m. inside the offices of Prince Law Group, a personal injury, insurance law and commercial law firm on the fifth floor of the City National Bank Building at 10801 W. Charleston Blvd.

Johansson said the victims and gunman were at the office for a deposition related to child custody, and that the victims were “very specific targets,” with another person in the office being “shooed away” by the gunman during the attack.

Seven people were taking part in the deposition, Johansson said, including a court reporter.

“Shortly into the deposition, approximately three to four minutes, the suspect stood up and began opening fire on the two victims across the table from him,” Johansson said.

He said the other people in the room at the time “were able to quickly get away and call police.”

At an earlier news conference Monday, Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill said investigators have a theory about the relationship between the shooter and his victims but would not disclose it.

At some point Monday, court records show, lawyers representing Ashley Prince filed an “emergency motion for sole custody of the minor children; and for attorneys’ fees and costs.”

Eglet said he and Dennis Prince had been best friends for years as they ran a firm together before separating their practices.

“I never stopped loving him or caring about him,” Eglet said.

Veteran attorney Will Kemp said he had known Dennis Prince for 25 years.

“He was a fantastic lawyer,” Kemp said. “That goes without being said.”

John Curtas, a deputy city attorney with the city of Las Vegas, said he had known Dennis Prince and Joseph Houston for decades.

Curtas said both lawyers were respected. He said Houston was a “little rough around the edges, but nothing to indicate this type of thing.” He described Prince as “a heavyweight” and “kind of a superstar in the litigation field.”

State Bar of Nevada records show that Joseph Houston was licensed in Nevada in 1974, while Dennis Prince was licensed in 1993. Dylan Houston was licensed in the state in 2015.

Sheltering in place

McMahill said other occupants in the office building sheltered in place, following active shooter protocol.

He said officials were going through the building checking on hundreds of people who had taken shelter and evacuating the building.

An area for family reunifications was established on the fifth floor of the nearby Red Rock Resort.

Lacy Smith and Taylor Donjon were among the family members who rushed to Red Rock to reunite with relatives who had been inside the building when the shooting occurred.

Smith, 42, was there to find her son, who works at an accounting firm on the building’s third floor.

“He called and told us he was in a locked room, he could hear an active shooter in the building, and that the police had just arrived,” Smith said. “We didn’t call him. We just texted him, because we didn’t want to create any attention to his area because we didn’t know what was going on.”

Donjon, 30, was there for her mother, who had been in the building and heard gunfire.

“She was actually in another office (with) another attorney in there,” Donjon said. “She was going to drop something off at an office, and they were like, ‘You have to stay in.’ ”

Both women said their loved ones were scared while sheltering.

“They didn’t know what was going on: You don’t know if they’re coming toward you, if they’re not coming toward you — or anything,” Smith said. “It was just heart-dropping. I mean my son is like 25, you know? And you go back to when they’re like 5 years old, and you just have to go there and make sure they’re going to be OK.”

Police closed Charleston in both directions from Red Rock Drive past Pavilion Center Drive during the initial phase of the response.

Johansson said the building is expected to reopen Tuesday, but the suite where the shooting occurred will remain closed for investigation.

No one answered the door Monday evening at Joseph Houston’s two-story home in the 7900 block of Blue Venice Court, near the intersection of South Buffalo Drive and West Desert Inn Road in southwestern Las Vegas.

Neighbors said that in the midafternoon police blocked off the street, and armed SWAT officers threw a flash bomb that made a loud explosion and used a loudspeaker outside Houston’s home to tell anyone there to come out.

People emotionally affected by the shooting deaths may visit the Resiliency and Justice Center at 2915 W. Charleston Blvd., Suite 100, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

If you’re thinking about suicide, or are worried about a friend or loved one, help is available 24/7 by calling or texting the Lifeline network at 988. Live chat is available at 988lifeline.org.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter. Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter. Assistant Managing Editor Carri Geer Thevenot contributed to this report.

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