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‘It was intentional’: Minibike death was no accident, father says

Updated August 9, 2023 - 5:17 pm

A grief-stricken Rudolfo Naranjo is adamant. The steel cable that led to his 16-year-old son’s death was intentionally tied across the path, he said.

Naranjo’s view of what happened differs from what Las Vegas police have said — that Angel Naranjo’s death appears to have been a tragic accident.

“The cable was strung across there, and he struck it with his neck while it was like that, clotheslined,” said Naranjo, 41. “And it was intentional.”

His son, who would’ve entered 10th grade this week and who loved working with engines, died while driving his red minibike on Las Vegas Wash Trail near Lake Mead Boulevard and Pecos Road on July 30.

Naranjo’s view of his son’s death is based on what he saw when he arrived at the scene before police. He also said it’s based on the eyewitness accounts from his other son, Arley, 19, who was riding behind Angel when Angel struck the cable, and from five or so other boys who were there.

Arley Naranjo, who was lying in bed Tuesday morning, still injured and traumatized, also disputed that the death was accidental.

“Yeah, that don’t sit right with me because it’s not. It’s not an accident,” he said.

This differs from what the Metropolitan Police Department said in a Monday statement that took the Naranjo family by surprise: Angel’s death appears to have been an accident and that the steel cable had been slack on the ground.

“Based on witness interviews and evidence at the scene, a cable was tied to a fence post on the pathway where Angel was riding his minibike,” the police statement said. “That cable was slack and resting on the ground. It was not strung taut across the pathway.

“Angel’s minibike went over the cable, and it appears it then snapped up and struck him in the neck,” the statement continued. “The preliminary investigation points to this being a tragic and unfortunate accident.”

Naranjo said it’s possible the side of the cable tied to a light post might have been slack on the ground, but it was high enough off the ground on the fence side to have hit his son’s neck.

Investigation not over

Metro on Tuesday released another statement that said police are still investigating.

“The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is actively investigating the death of Angel Naranjo,” the statement said. “Detectives are still collecting evidence and reaching out to potential witnesses.”

Arley Naranjo said the cable was strung up while the boys were out riding on the path. He said when he and the other boys first drove down the path that night, there was no cable across it. But sometime after, when the boys drove their bikes back down the path, a cable had been strung up from a fence post on the west side to a light post on the east side of the path, he said.

“When we were headed up north towards Craig Ranch (Regional Park), there was no cable and we were all chillin’, and on the way back is when there was a cable tied across,” Arley Naranjo said.

The cable on the light-post side was low enough to the ground that one of the boys was able to run over it on that side, Rudolfo Naranjo said. But on the side near the fence, the cable was high enough so that it struck Angel’s neck as he drove his minibike. Arley said he hit the cable on a lower part of his body.

One of the boys untied the cable from the light post, Rudolfo Naranjo said.

Angel’s injuries were fatal, and by the time Rudolfo Naranjo got to the scene a few minutes later, Angel’s body was in the back of an ambulance. He had a mark from the wire across his neck from ear to ear, Naranjo said.

His son’s neck injury “absolutely does not support that theory at all,” Rudolfo Naranjo said of the police statement about the cable snapping up and hitting Angel.

A Clark County coroner’s office spokesperson said Tuesday an official cause of death hadn’t yet been determined.

Asked why somebody might have strung the cable across the path, Naranjo said, it might have been somebody who didn’t like all the noise from the minibikes, or maybe it was somebody on drugs. He pointed to the fact there are homeless people living all around that area of the wash.

“We know somebody did it,” Naranjo said. “The cable wasn’t going to place itself there.”

In addition to his father, Rudolfo, and brother Arley, Angel Naranjo is also survived by his mother, Cecilia Naranjo-Calderon, 40, a brother, Austin, 14, and a sister, Amber, 12, his dad said.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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