LAS VEGAS – The Maserati driver who died after being peppered with gunfire from someone in a Range Rover SUV, sparking a fiery crash that killed two others, was identified Friday as an aspiring rapper originally from Northern California.
The Clark County coroner confirmed that Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr. was killed, although the cause of death was still being investigated. It wasn’t clear Friday if Cherry died of gunshots or the crash.
The coroner hasn’t identified the taxi driver and his female passenger who died when the cab exploded early Thursday, but a family member identified the cab driver as Michael Boldon, 62.
Boldon’s older sister, Carolyn Jean Trimble, told The Associated Press that Boldon was a father and grandfather who was born and raised in Michigan and had been driving taxis since he moved to Las Vegas about 1½ years ago. Boldon loved watching car races and drove a Mercedes when he wasn’t in a cab.
“Everybody just loved him,” Trimble said. “When that car hit that cab, Mike had to be in there talking and laughing.”
Police were searching for the Range Rover with dark tinted windows and custom rims that set off the fiery crash on the Las Vegas Strip. Besides the three people killed, six other people were injured in what marked the latest in a series of violent episodes in Las Vegas in recent months.
Cherry’s great aunt, Patricia Sims of Oakland, Calif., told AP that Cherry’s parents were flying to Las Vegas to claim their 27-year-old son’s body.
“Right now my heart is breaking,” Sims said. “This has really been a tragedy. Kenny was just a delightful kid.”
Sims, 75, said Cherry grew up in the Berkeley and Oakland area and attended two Catholic high schools there. He moved to Las Vegas in the past couple of years, though Sims said she didn’t know her nephew was a rapper using the name Kenny Clutch. Cherry was particularly close with Sims’ 106-year-old mother.
“I haven’t been able to tell her,” Sims said of Cherry’s death.
Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told reporters Thursday that the shooting was sparked by an argument in the valet area of the nearby Aria hotel-casino, and it traveled to one of the busiest intersections on the Las Vegas Strip. As bullets flew from the Range Rover, the Maserati ran a red light and smashed into the taxi.
Three more cars and a utility truck also collided as the Range Rover sped off in the darkness at about 4:30 a.m.
Police said a passenger in the Maserati was cooperating with the investigation.
“We have numerous witnesses to this,” Sgt. John Sheahan said. “But what is the genesis of this? We don’t know yet.”
Las Vegas police officer Jose Hernandez said Friday that the Range Rover was being sought in Nevada and the neighboring states of California, Utah and Arizona. It had a car dealer’s advertisement in place of a license plate.
The effects of the shooting and crashes were felt hours later as the Strip remained closed, snarling traffic, until it reopened late Thursday.
“The people I feel sorry for are the people in the taxi,” said Elvina Joyce, a tourist from Regina, Saskatchewan. “Seconds made all the difference in the world for them. Wrong place, wrong time.”
The irony that a sports car would end the life of a man with such a love for fancy vehicles wasn’t lost on Boldon’s sister.
“He would have been tickled to death: ‘Damn, of all things, a Maserati hit me, took me out like that,’” Trimble said. “I’m happy he didn’t suffer.”
The area near the shooting and crash has been the site of high-profile violence in the past.
Rapper Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1996 about a block away under similar circumstances, as assailants opened fire on his luxury sedan from a vehicle on Flamingo Road. The killing has never been solved.
There have been several violent episodes in Las Vegas in recent months.
Two people were critically wounded in a shooting at a parking garage Feb. 6, and a tourist was stabbed Feb. 16 in an elevator at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay.
On New Year’s Eve at the Circus Circus hotel-casino, a man fired a revolver into the ground just off the main casino floor. Less than two weeks earlier, a woman allegedly slashed the face of a blackjack dealer at the Bellagio.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Hannah Dreier in Las Vegas and Garance Burke in San Francisco, and researchers Judith Ausuebel, Jennifer Farrar and Lynn Dombek.