Arrest of Vegas fugitive in LA surprises neighbor
- Article by: TAMI ABDOLLAH and KEN RITTER
- Associated Press
- March 1, 2013 - 2:56 AM
LOS ANGELES - Gail Gaghagen was surprised to learn the man police and FBI agents led away in handcuffs from her luxury apartment complex was a triple murder suspect wanted after a spectacular shootout and fiery crash on the Las Vegas Strip.
Just Tuesday, Gaghagen thinks she saw Ammar Harris sitting alone in the gym at Archview Luxury Apartments in Los Angeles' Studio City neighborhood, dressed in shorts and a tank top.
"I just walked by and there was a glass door," Gaghagen told The Associated Press. "I just I looked at him and he looked at me and that was it."
Gaghagen said she told the same story to FBI agents she met in the apartment elevator after authorities say Harris, a 26-year-old self-described pimp, surrendered Thursday without incident. A woman in the apartment was being questioned but wasn't charged with a crime.
"I'm just glad they arrested this man," Gaghagen said.
Harris' arrest ended a weeklong multi-state manhunt that began after a Feb. 21 shooting and spectacular, fiery crash that killed three people and injured five on the Las Vegas Strip.
"This arrest is much more (than) taking Ammar Harris into custody," Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie told reporters Thursday in Las Vegas. "I hope anyone out there watching understands clearly if you live in this city, if you work in this city, or you visit this city and act like this person, we will find you, we will prosecute you, and we will send you to prison."
Harris, a convicted felon in South Carolina who shows fists full of money on Internet posts and boasts of a high-rolling lifestyle with prostitutes in Miami and Las Vegas, was jailed in Los Angeles pending an extradition hearing Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
His arrest ended an intense multi-state search that began after the attack early on a Thursday morning had vehicles crashing like pinballs in a neon-lit intersection home to posh casino resorts such as Bellagio, Bally's, Flamingo and Caesars Palace.
Court documents allege Harris was driving his black Range Rover SUV when he fired at least five shots into a Maserati sports car, killing Kenneth Wayne Cherry Jr., a rapper who called himself Kenny Clutch.
A passenger in the Maserati, identified in court documents as Freddy Walters, was wounded in the arm. Attempts to reach him on Thursday were not immediately successful.
Police say the two men argued minutes earlier in the valet area of the glassy Aria resort on the Las Vegas Strip, after a night featuring Morocco-born rapper French Montana at the hotel nightclub Haze.
The Maserati, with Cherry mortally wounded at the wheel, slammed into a taxi that burst into flames. The 62-year-old cabbie, Michael Boldon, and his passenger, Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Wash., were killed.
The crash closed the Strip for about 15 hours while police investigated. Two days later, police located the SUV parked at an apartment complex two blocks east of the crash scene. Harris wasn't there.
Lt. Ray Steiber, who headed the investigation, said Thursday that investigators learned that Harris fled Las Vegas "pretty rapidly" after the shooting and fiery crash. Detectives fielded "hundreds and hundreds" of tips in the following days, Steiber said.
Investigators also reviewed casino surveillance images of a valet area disagreement between Harris and Cherry, collected bullet casings and listened to audio recordings from nearby taxis of the sound of five gunshots on the Strip, and obtained traffic camera video of the Maserati speeding through the Las Vegas Boulevard intersection at Flamingo Road.
The day after the shooting, prosecutors obtained a warrant for Harris' arrest on three murder, one attempted murder and several shooting charges. Authorities obtained a federal warrant Monday enabling the FBI to help the search in other states.
Las Vegas police revealed Thursday they had found and talked with all three women who were in the SUV with Harris during the shooting — including Tineesha Lashun Howard, a woman who had been identified by police on Tuesday as a person of interest in the case.
Police wouldn't release the names of the other female passengers in the SUV.
Capt. Chris Jones said none of them was charged with a crime.
Steiber called the discovery that Howard, a 22-year-old from Miami with a history of prostitution arrests who also uses the names Yenesis Alfonzo or Yani, left Los Angeles on Wednesday on an eastbound bus "one of the factors" that led investigators to find Harris in Studio City. Police have not said where Howard had been found.
As police in Los Angeles searched the Studio City apartment, Steiber noted that the investigation was not finished.
"We have captured Ammar Harris," the police lieutenant said. "This is an open and ongoing investigation. This is not closed."
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Thursday that anyone who helped Harris elude police for a week could still face criminal charges.
Ritter reported from Las Vegas.
© 2014 Star Tribune